Iga — or, more specifically, the town of Ueno (上野) within its borders — is best known as the birthplace of two famous people: haiku poet Matsuo Bashō (松尾芭蕉), the author of Narrow Road to the Deep North, and ninja clan leader Hanzō Hattori (服部半蔵), celebrated in fiction and found even in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.
 Get in
Iga is about halfway between Osaka and Nagoya, and about an hour and a half from Kyoto. The main stations are Iga-Kanbe (伊賀神戸駅), on the Kintetsu Osaka Line, and Iga-Ueno (伊賀上野), on the JR Kansai Main Line. The two stations are linked by the Kintetsu Iga Line, which takes you to Ueno-shi station (5 minutes, ¥220). The train windows may be adorned with solemn ninja pigs and triangular ninja heads, which can't help but stir up some excitement for what lies ahead.
 Get around
The castle and museums are located in Ueno Park, a short walk directly north of Kintetsu Ueno-shi station. There's a tourist information booth near the station; just look for the cartoon ninjas.
[add listing] See
[add listing] Do
[add listing] Buy
Several small shops in Ueno Park sell amusing ninja souvenirs. If you're hoping for an authentic set of throwing stars or some Hanzō steel, though, you'll have to look elsewhere.
There is also the Iga pottery (yakimono) manufactory: , a good stop for those who are interested in Japanese cookware; their major product is donabe.
[add listing] Eat
Iga Beef Iga is quite famous throughout the region for it's fatty, well-marbled beef. Several restaurants around town sell it, however, expect to pay a pretty penny. The two most well-known restaurants are:
[add listing] Drink
Murai's Tea House (10:00 AM - 8:00 PM) Also known as the Ninja Tea House, this quaint little tea shop has been in business for over 100 years. They specialize in serving Uji tea, which comes from Uji, a town famous for it's green tea. The shop offers a variety of teas, soft-serve ice creams, and desserts. Most notable is the Ninja au lait (￥500), a heaping serving of green tea powder shaped into a ninja star; served over sweetened, hot milk; and sprinkled with gold leaf. The owner, Murai-san, is an eccentric, friendly man who can sometimes be seen outside of the tea house in colorful ninja costume. He is also quite famous around in the area and has had his shop featured in newspapers and television shows across the country. The shop is decorated with photos of the family and several Japanese celebrities, along with various knick knacks. This should definitely be a stop on anyone's trip into Iga.
[add listing] Sleep
There are a few business hotels in town, but no youth hostels.
 Get out