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Iga

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Sidewalk near Ueno Park in Iga

Iga (伊賀) [1], also known as Iga-Ueno (伊賀上野), is a city in Mie prefecture, Japan.

Understand[edit]

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[edit]

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.

From Osaka
Take the subway to Tanimachi Kyu(9)chome Station. Walk east for 10 mins to Osaka Uehommachi Station (Kintensu Osaka line, a private railway line). The Local (普通 Futsū)(L) subway fare is the cheapest at 1110 Yen but takes 1.5 hours. The Limited Express (特急 Tokkyū) costs 1980 Yen but takes around 45 mins. Alight at Iga-Kanbe Station.

Get around[edit]

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.

See[edit][add listing]

Tip your cap to Bashō
Ueno Castle
  • Iga Ninja Museum (9:00am-5:00pm, entry ¥700) [2] Ueno's top attraction by far, this old Japanese house was actually used by the Iga clan and is full of spiffy ninja secrets like trapdoors, revolving walls and more, all demonstrated by kunoichi - cheerful lady ninjas in pink garb. There is a museum on the grounds with good English displays, and there are also live demonstrations of ninja weaponry and techniques - hourly from 11 AM to 3 PM except Tuesdays (only weekends in Dec-Feb).
  • The Bashō Museum pays tribute to the haiku master Matsuo Bashō, who is thought to have been born in Iga. It's not often open, but the building itself, shaped like the hat Bashō wore, is a curious sight.
  • Ueno Castle (9:00am-5:00pm, closed December 29-31; admission ¥500) was a frequent target for ninja attacks in the old days. Resist the temptation to slip on a mask and go skulking around as if nobody can see you; the sleepy guard inside the castle doesn't need the hassle. It's one of the better-looking castle reconstructions in Japan, but the museum inside is not really worth a visit.
  • The Tenjin festival is held every year between October 23rd to 25th [3]. Between the festivals the portable shrines are shown in the Danjiri Museum.
  • Ninja Festa happens every April and lasts the whole month. Tourists can usually be seen roaming up and down the main street in ninja outfits. Some townspeople can be seen wearing very elaborate ninja costumes as they greet visitors to the town. Various mannequins in ninja costume litter the town during this time, showing up on top of street lamps, under benches, and in shop displays. Trips on the Ueno Tetsudo train line (Ninja train) are also free during this month to visitors in ninja costume.

Do[edit][add listing]

Buy[edit][add listing]

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: [4], a good stop for those who are interested in Japanese cookware; their major product is donabe.

Eat[edit][add listing]

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:

Drink[edit][add listing]

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.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are a few business hotels in town, but no youth hostels.

Get out[edit]

  • You've learned about the Iga ninja; now head to Koka, in Shiga prefecture, to hear their rivals' side of the story.
Routes through Iga
OsakaNara  W noframe E  KameyamaNagoya




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