Koka Ninja House (Koka-ryu Ninjutsu Yashiki) is the former residence of Mochizuki Izumonokami, the leading Koga ninja family of the 53 Koka ninja families. 望月出雲守 MAPThe house is in its original location in the Koka area of Shiga Prefecture.
The Ninja House, built in 1703, is owned and maintained by a local medicine company having ninja roots. Many Koka ninja were makers of medicine as a front for their clandestine activities. This background also made them expert at making gunpowder.
The Koka Ninja House is located 2 km from JR Konan Station on the JR Kusatsu Line. There are no buses going to the Ninja House. The house is open every day 9 am - 5 pm. Closed Dec. 27-Jan. 1. Admission is 600 yen for adults. 望月出雲守
The first room you see in the house is the living room. You can sit and have free "ninja tea" while waiting for a guided tour of the house. Along with the geisha, the ninja is one of the most recognized but misunderstood things about Japan.
The upper walls have explanations about the Koka ninja and Mochizuki ninja family. "Koka" is the correct pronunciation, but the kanji can also be pronounced "Koga" which has become more common.
Revolving door (opened). The floor also has a trap door (see next photo) where you can go down and escape through a tunnel leading to a well in the garden outside.
Trap door on the floor opened.
Inside the trap door is a hole and tunnel leading to a well in the garden outside. Hence the water.
Entrance to another room on the first floor. Although the Koga ninja and Iga ninja (in Mie Prefecture) were the most famous, there were actually numerous ninja groups in many other parts of Japan as well. They were most active during wars.
This room has display cases showing various ninja weapons, tools, and costumes. The ceiling is also quite low, designed to impede the wielding of samurai swords.
The left sliding wooden door is very heavy, about 50 kg, making it difficult to open. This buys more time for the ninja to escape.
Closet with a trap door on the floor.
Ladder going up to the attic.
Ladder going to the 2nd floor. There's also a trap door on the floor below the ladder where the ninja could hide. Notice the rope. The ninja hiding under the floor would tug the rope connected to the 2nd floor.
That rope goes to the second floor (see next photo).
The rope is connected to a noise maker on the 2nd floor here. The intruder would then think that the ninja is on the 2nd floor and go up the ladder in pursuit. When the intruder is on the 2nd floor, the ninja below the trap door would remove the ladder.
The 2nd floor, between the first floor and ceiling, has a very low height which can entrap an intruder going upstairs.
The wooden railing on the right is slimmer than the left one. It means it is removable, allowing the ninja to escape from the 2nd floor.
Ceiling of Ninja House. Directly below the thatched roof.
Ceiling of Ninja House.
Stairs to go back down to the 1st floor. There's a rotating door. Ninja worked behind the scenes and were very secretive. They hardly told others about their activites nor left written records. Sometimes they worked as spies or mole.
The veranda is another escape route after opening trick windows from the inside. Ninja avoided direct combat and preferred to defend themselves and escape from enemies. Assassination was only a minor part of their activities.
Small revolving door connected to a closet. The Koka ninja's main activity was gathering information. As they traveled and sold medicines, they always talked to people and their customers. They tried to find out how many guns the enemy had, etc.
Medicine ad sign reading Ninjutsu-gan. For belly aches. Although the ninja's medicine-making remains today, the art of ninjutsu is ironically no longer practiced in Koka. It is not a martial art like karate and judo.
For 500 yen, you can rent a ninja costume of various colors.
Little ninja at target practice.
The Koka Ninja House also has a Shuriken Dojo. Pay 200 yen for five shuriken throwing stars (300 yen for 10) and try hitting the bull's eye.
Real ninja obviously did not wear a pink costume, but in the manga/anime world, pink looks cute.
Trying my shuriken skills. You throw it with an overhand throw (like a baseball) and not like a frisbee. Also see my YouTube video here.
Three out of five of my shuriken at least stuck on the board. But all missed the target which is quite low. Probably geared for kids.
Real ninja shuriken throwing star knives on display. Made of steel, they come in many different shapes.
A flaming star
Maki-bishi spikes thrown on the ground to poke your feet. These are made from dried water chestnuts (aquatic plant found in marshes). One of the four spikes will point upward.
Maki-bishi made of steel. Used for escape when they encountered an enemy. Many of the ninja's weapons were designed to buy time for the ninja to escape.
Dart-shaped shuriken. Shuriken were not only star-shaped. These were either thrown straight-on, or thrown while the point rotated 180 degrees turning toward the target. It was difficult to throw, and much practice was required..
Ninja sword, very short.
Gunpowder case
Small gun concealed as a sword.
Bullets with various gauges.
The famed Bansenshukai Ninja Bible detailing ninja tools and techniques. This is a replica.
One room's upper walls display a chronological history of the Koga ninja.
Ninja tools
Display case showing ninja costumes. Real ninja mainly wore one of seven disguises instead of the stereotypical black costume. They could be dressed as a priest, merchant, jester, etc.
Contrary to popular belief, ninja cannot walk on water. "Mizugumo" means water spider. To move across water, they used a wooden floating ring shown here, and sat in the middle.
They wore wooden geta clogs with flippers which helped them propel themselves underwater. The wooden floating ring is collapsible and quite light. Almost like balsa.
A sketch shows how they were "water spiders." They were largely submerged in the water, with the wooden ring also submerged, but buoyant enough for them to float across while kicking through the water with the flipper clogs.
Straw ninja hat with a deep brim to hide their face. Dressing like a priest, merchant, etc., would arouse the least suspicion while they traveled.
Straw sandals with metal claws for traction.
Blow tube and blow darts.
Blow darts with poison tips maybe.
Metal finger claws worn on the fingertips.
Medicine (gunpowder?) case.
Swinging chain with weights on the ends. Wrap it around the opponent's neck.
The array of ninja weapons and tools was very impressive. This Ninja House strives to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions of the ninja. A visit is highly recommended.
Hooks for hoisting ropes on walls, etc. The Koka ninja reluctantly moved to Edo (Tokyo) around 1634 as requested by the shogun, and worked as castle guards, gathered intelligence on daimyo lords, and formed a gun battalion.
Manga cells. Ninja manga characters are famous. However, real ninja never became famous. Being famous in name or face would greatly decrease the value of that ninja.
Outside the ninja house. This ninja house is very impressive. It does have an air of authenticity, although there are, unavoidably, a few touristy elements. This house should be designated as a Important Cultural Property or an National Historic Site.
Wooden ad sign for aspirin.
Gift shop selling medicines, tea, and ninja goods.
Medicines made by the company which owns the house.
Healthy "Ninja tea." Free samples in the living room.
Ninja souvenirs
Ninja phone straps
Soft rubber shuriken (toys). Special thanks to Takayuki Mochizuki (ninja descendant) for taking me to this Koka Ninja House.
The Ninja House also displays autographs by celebrities who visited the house. This is actor Harrison Ford who visited in Feb. 2000. He came unannounced with a taxi driver, interpreter, and his son.
This is an autograph by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko who visited the Ninja House on April 24, 2009. In red reads "Mottainai," her motto meaning "Wasteful," in reference to spending of tax dollars.
Certificate of Appreciation from UNICEF to the medicine company. Koka Ninja House Web site here. Phone: 0748-86-2179. Also see the Koka Ninja Village.
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