| Centrip Editorial Board
The Captivating World of Samurai and Ninja in Central Japan
What inspired your fascination with Japan and sparked your desire to visit the country? Maybe it was the captivating image of sword-wielding Samurai portrayed in Hollywood movies or the extraordinary abilities of ninjas showcased in anime films that piqued your interest. Whatever the reason, Japan has captivated the hearts and minds of people all around the world for its unique culture, traditions, and history. As you plan your trip to Japan, there is so much to discover, explore and experience beyond what you may have seen in movies or TV shows.
For many visitors, their introduction to samurai and ninja through media began their fascination with Japan. Through media alone, it's hard to learn about these fascinating figures. The era when samurai and ninja reached their pinnacle in Japan is known as the Warring States period. Lasting over a century from the late 15th to late 16th century, this war-torn era witnessed samurai engaging in battles, while ninja undertook covert operations, such as espionage and manipulation, working under the rule of diverse feudal lords. Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, and Ieyasu Tokugawa, the three samurai who rose to prominence during the Warring States period, were born in the Central Japan region. They sometimes joined forces and at other times, fought against each other to achieve the unification of the country.
The Central Japan region was the heart of the samurai and ninja era, and today, there are numerous castles where the samurai were based and facilities where you can immerse yourself in the world of the ninja. This article highlights various ways to enjoy a "Samurai Ninja Journey" starting from Central Japan International Airport and Nagoya.
Samurai and Castles
Castles have been vital structures for defense during times of war, and for governance during times of peace. Throughout history, many samurai have played active roles on the stages provided by castles. As the center of samurai ninja culture, the Central Japan region boasts three of the five castles designated as national treasures. Furthermore, there are countless castles scattered throughout the region, including beautiful mountain castles and famous castles that have played major roles in Japanese history.
The following article introduces 13 famous castles that are worth visiting and easily accessible from Nagoya, along with their highlights and how to visit them.
The existence of the ninja remains a mystery today. Rumour is there were dozens of ninja schools throughout Japan, but the two most influential schools are the Iga and Koka schools, both based in the Central Japan region.
The following article explores the mysterious world of the ninja, their daily routines, and the various espionage techniques employed. It also explains the differences between the Iga and Koka schools and highlights places where you can discover and experience ninja culture, such as the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum in Iga and the Koka no Sato Ninjutsu Mura in Koka. It also provides information on nearby sightseeing attractions to enhance your trip.
During the Edo period in Japan (1603-1867), two important highways were established to connect the major cities of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) and Kyoto. These highways, known as the Tokaido and Nakasendo, were dotted with post towns at regular intervals, providing a place for weary travelers to rest and recuperate on their journeys.
While the Nakasendo, particularly the Magome Pass connecting Magome-juku and Tsumago-juku, has gained much attention as a popular walking trail along Japan's old highways, the article below introduces post towns on the Tokaido that are easily accessible from Nagoya and well worth a visit. We will also introduce a recommended hiking route starting from Seki-juku, which boasts the largest preserved townscape, and passing through the challenging Suzuka Pass to reach Tsuchiyama-juku.
Central Japan has flourished as a castle town with a castle at its center and as a vital transportation hub where many travelers come and go, creating a rich culinary culture. Even today, food remains an indispensable pleasure for travelers. While exploring samurai and ninja spots in Central Japan, enjoy the unique food culture of each region.
In Nagoya, you can enjoy the well-known Nagoya meshi (Nagoya cuisine) including miso nikomi udon noodles, miso katsu (deep-fried cutlet), and hitsumabushi (eel with rice). You can also indulge in Japanese sweets and matcha green tea, which have roots in the tea ceremony that samurai used to practice. If you visit Matsumoto Castle, try Toji soba, a local meal made with cold soba noodles served in a pot of hot soup with wild vegetables and chicken. In Hida Takayama, it's recommended to try the local cuisine, Hoba Miso, as well as the many Hida beef dishes. The following article introduces various gourmet foods that can be enjoyed at post towns along the Nakasendo, as well as some unique ninja emergency food options.
When visiting the center of samurai and ninja culture, don't limit yourself to simply strolling around castles and facilities. Instead, make the most of your trip by taking part in a range of hands-on programs to create unforgettable memories.
In the Central Japan region, traditional crafts are thriving, and you have the opportunity to create unique works of art with the guidance of skilled craftsmen at various workshops. From making beautiful Japanese paper to crafting braided cords, as seen in the animated film Your Name, to learning the shibori technique of dyeing cotton cloth into various patterns, there's no shortage of creative experiences to enjoy. For a more casual experience, try on stunning kimonos or armor worn by samurai in battle and take memorable photos. For those seeking a deeper spiritual connection to Japanese culture, authentic Zen meditation and Shakyo (sutra copying) experiences are available in the post towns along the Nakasendo route, making for a truly unique and immersive experience.