- 22 . 11 . 04
The purpose of a ninja is to flip out and kill people. The purpose of this day trip was to find them.
Akame, Japanese Culture, Ninja
Another day, another day-trip. After not having travelled for the last 5 months, finally I have the time and the money to start doing it regularly I hope. Today’s trip was to two different destinations courtesy of my Japanese school.
The first stop was at Akame, a small town in Mie Prefecture. Akame is famous for having 48 waterfalls in the same stretch of river. Walking all the way to the top of the canyon would have taken about an hour and a half and unfortunately we only had about 2 hours in total, so we got to see about 60% of them. Jason, Grant and Tracy, who were feeling particularly energetic managed to go all the way to the top, mainly by picking up their pace and pushing old ladies out of the way. The falls themselves were pretty, but mostly unspectacular. Once you’ve seen Niagara Falls, I guess nothing else really compares. Most of the falls were pretty small, but it probably would have been a little naive to expect 48 full size waterfalls in a row! A couple of the falls were great though and it was very nice to have a walk beside an interesting river once you discounted the fact that half of it was uphill! What made this area for me was the changing of the leaves, which were halfway between red and green and made a great backdrop to the river. It did mean that the narrow path was filled withlots of people doing the equivalent of the Sunday morning drive, but it was easy enough to walk around them if you ignored the tuts and shakes of the head!
After Akame, we visited the Iga Sect Ninja museum in Shiga prefecture. We were shown a ninja house, complete with fake floorboards, revolving doors and secret passages and a museum giving a history of the ninja as well as displaying a number of old artifacts. There were a whole host of gadgets, for everything from instant ladders and door jamming mechanisms to gyroscopic candle holders that would never fall over. It was pretty interesting and there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know beforehand. Did you know that ninja could tell the time of night by looking at a cat’s eyes? And that they always slept on their left hand side so that they couldn’t be stabbed in the heart?
We also saw a short display of ninja skills by a couple of black clad mysterious types. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I’m pretty sure it translated something like “this is how we flip out and kill people”. Certainly, they were fighting with real katana, as they sliced up some poles beforehand to prove it. And seeing shuriken thrown properly was pretty cool. Even better was the chance to throw them ourselves. Without bragging, it turns out that I do have mad ninja skillz as I’d suspected. From about 8-10 feet away I managed to get two of them into a pretty small target and the three others in a small circle around it. 40% Ninja-ness is more than I was expecting, so I was pretty happy. My prize for this magnificent achievement? A cool katana in a scabbard. On a keyring.
Thanks again to Izumi and the rest of the volunteers, without whom I wouldn’t be able to speak any Japanese and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see these things.