The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) on Friday gave reporters a preview of its new ninja exhibition, which uses historic documents, tools and interactive attractions to give visitors a more scientific idea of what it was like to be a ninja.
“I think some people wonder why Miraikan is doing a ninja event . . . We’ve started to discover that ninja had a wide range of cutting-edge knowledge in science at that time,” Yumi Miyahara of Miraikan told reporters Friday at press preview in Tokyo’s Odaiba area.
The exhibition “The Ninja: Who Were They?” kicks off Saturday and runs until Oct. 10.
Miyahara said ninja were well-versed in the natural sciences and used that knowledge to make weather forecasts or get their bearings from their surroundings.
Many displays at the exhibition are accompanied by scientific explanations about the ancient assassins’ skills.
For instance, one display explains that ninja used a walking method called nanba that uses both sides of the body as an axis rather than depending on a single axis in the center of the body. This is a more efficient way of walking that leads to less fatigue, it says.
Another examines the spies’ peculiar vocalizations, such as using shouting to emphasize important situations, to see if they were based on science. Researchers found that certain muscles are reinforced when people shout or use loud voices.
“I think this is a groundbreaking exhibition that tries to analyze who ninja were from the point of view of modern science,” rather than other exhibitions that tend to focus on the ancient warriors’ history, said Yuji Yamada, a professor at Mie University who researches ninja. The university is supervising the exhibition.
But the event is not just about looking. Visitors can try out some of the interactive displays to test their ninja potential.
One such exhibit tests if visitors can master the art of tiptoeing silently, which was apparently a required skill for spying activities.
Visitors walk on a wood floor equipped with sensors which detect vibrations; alarms go off if a person tiptoes too clumsily.
Another hands-on experience lets visitors try out what is perhaps the ninja’s most famous weapon: throwing stars.
The event showcases historic documents, including those that explain the different facets of the shadow warriors’ special techniques and tools, including swords and chains.
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