We went to Iga-Ueno in September 2016.
Joao really wanted to visit a ninja village. There are 2 in Japan, one in Iga-Ueno and one in Koka, as far as I know. The one in Iga-Ueno is quite close to my father’s place (around 40 minutes drive), so we chose it.
What to do in Iga-Ueno with kids
We arrived there after getting completely lost at around 11 am. We stopped by Danjiri-kan, the Japanese festivals hand-carried floats in Iga. We bought the 3-attraction pass, which included the ninja museum, Danjiri-kan, and Iga-Ueno Castle. It cost JPY 1500 per adult, JPY 850 per child and under 5’s pay JPY 550.
We started by the Danjiri-kan and as we entered, we were guided to chairs as a movie about the festival and the floats was about to start. Every light was turned off, so we weren’t to wander around while the film was on. It’s quite short, around 10 minutes, with no subtitles. I got it, but Angelo and the kids ended up a bit lost and bored.
The museum is small, with the floats on the center and costumes around. On the second floor, there was a little place to watch the same film and a small dressing area where you could change into ninja costumes for a fee. We didn’t.
They gave the kids a paper sheet and if they collected all the stamps, they would get an origami shuriken (ninja throwing star). 3 out of 4 of my kids did.
It took us around 1 hour to see it all.
Then we headed to the ninja museum. It was a short walk (5 minutes) from Danjiri-kan to the Ninja house through the Ueno Park, a lovely walk, by the way. We were greeted and given a flier (in English) about the place and ninja curiosities. The house itself is a guided tour that takes no longer than 20 minutes, but it’s quite fun. They show the surprises acting it and it is cool. (PS: you do need to take your shoes off, so wear something easy to put on and take off). The show is all in Japanese, with little English panels translating roughly what the guides say. They need to have English tours as well urgently because it’s not easy to watch the demonstrations on one side of the room and read the panels hanging from the roof.
We weren’t allowed to take photos (or videos, of course) during the demonstrations.
After that, we were led to the basement, where there’s a small museum showing ninja disguises, artifacts, and curiosities. There was another building, also small, with more things to see and some shurikens (throwing stars). We then went to see the ninja show (paid separately, JPY 400 per person) and this was pretty cool, even for those who don’t speak Japanese, although you’ll probably miss a few jokes. It lasted for around 30 minutes. No photos/videos allowed during the show either, but it was worth the money.
To finish the ninja tour, the kids tried to throw some real shuriken (also paid, JPY 300/person). They’re quite heavy and Coral didn’t even manage to make them reach the target, but the boys did well and Joao got the maximum prize (cheap plastic toys, that he left behind, but he was proud of himself). The stars weigh around 200g each and apparently, they’re quite hard to control.
We had lunch at the soba restaurant inside the park (the only one there) and headed to Iga-Ueno Castle. To be very honest, it IS just like any other Japanese castle, so if you’ve been to one, you don’t have to pay to enter this one, but if you haven’t, it’s fun. The stairs are very steep inside the castle and you’re not to wear shoes inside (but it didn’t smell, fortunately). There were samurai armors, (fake) ninjas on the walls, lots of windows and pretty Japanese art. Unfortunately, no room as it was during Edo times.
The gardens were my favorite part, really well kept and beautiful, very Japanese. Lovely place to sit and enjoy.
Overall it was a fun day, but it was overly commercial and some people weren’t ready to deal with foreigners. The kids loved it, and I hope they learned a lot. I did.
And out short movie, hope you guys enjoy it!