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Things to do / Cultural/Entertainment

Iga Ueno Ninja Festa 2019

Ninja may no longer exist, but their mystique still has a strong hold on popular culture. (They'd have never imagined "Ninja Turtles," that's for sure.) Experts in ninjutsu (the art of stealth), they used sabotage and espionage to help shogun and daimyō (feudal lords) expand their power, especially during the Sengoku Period (1454-1573).

Japan has several historical footholds where ninja honed their prowess, including Iga Ueno in Mie Prefecture, and from April 27 to May 6, the area will hold special events at six venues at which visitors can increase their ninja knowledge and live like stealthy spies for a day.

Sharpen your weaponry skills at ninja-themed cafe Murai Bankoen, where you can throw shuriken (throwing stars) before heading over to Nishiote Station to shoot fukiya (blowpipe darts) at a target. At Ueno Kominkan you can strap on a pair of mizugumo (big circular wooden sandals used to walk on water) and see if you can keep your balance as you walk across a pool of plastic balls.

However, you won't feel like a true ninja until you dress the part. The city of Iga will make ninja outfits available on a first-come basis at the multipurpose building Haitopia Iga and other locations. (Yuki Yamauchi)