Iga — or, more specifically, the town of Ueno (上野) within its borders — is best known as the birthplace of two famous people: haiku poet Matsuo Bashō (松尾芭蕉), the author of Narrow Road to the Deep North, and ninja clan leader Hanzō Hattori (服部半蔵), celebrated in fiction and found even in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.
Iga is about halfway between Osaka and Nagoya, and about an hour and a half from Kyoto. The main stations are Iga-Kanbe (伊賀神戸駅), on the Kintetsu Osaka Line, and Iga-Ueno (伊賀上野), on the JR Kansai Main Line. The two stations are linked by the Kintetsu Iga Line, which takes you to Ueno-shi station (5 minutes, ¥220). The train windows may be adorned with solemn ninja pigs and triangular ninja heads, which can't help but stir up some excitement for what lies ahead.
If coming from Osaka, take the subway to Tanimachi Kyuchome Station. Walk east for 10 mins to Osaka Uehommachi Station on the Kintensu Osaka Line. The local (普通) subway fare is the cheapest at ¥1110 but takes 1.5 hours. The limited express (特急) costs ¥1980 but takes around 45 mins. Alight at Iga-Kanbe Station.
The castle and museums are located in Ueno Park (上野公園), a short walk directly north of Kintetsu Ueno-shi station (近鉄上野市駅). There's a tourist information booth near the station; just look for the cartoon ninjas.
- 1 Iga Ninja Museum (伊賀忍者博物館). 9AM-5PM. Ueno's top attraction by far, this old Japanese house was actually used by the Iga clan and is full of spiffy ninja secrets like trapdoors, revolving walls and more, all demonstrated by kunoichi - cheerful lady ninjas in pink garb. There is a museum on the grounds with good English displays, and there are also live demonstrations of ninja weaponry and techniques - hourly from 11 AM to 3 PM except Tuesdays (only weekends in Dec-Feb). ¥700.
- 2 Bashō Museum (芭蕉翁記念館), ☎ . This museum pays tribute to the haiku master Matsuo Bashō, who is thought to have been born in Iga. It's not often open, but the building itself, shaped like the hat Bashō wore, is a curious sight.
- 3 Iga Ueno Castle (伊賀上野城), ☎ . 9AM-5PM, closed December 29-31. This castle was a frequent target for ninja attacks in the old days. Resist the temptation to slip on a mask and go skulking around as if nobody can see you; the sleepy guard inside the castle doesn't need the hassle. It's one of the better-looking castle reconstructions in Japan, but the museum inside is not really worth a visit. ¥500.
- Ueno Tenjin Festival (上野天神祭). The is held every year October 23rd to 25th. Between the festivals the portable shrines are shown in the Danjiri Museum.
Several small shops in Ueno Park sell amusing ninja souvenirs. If you're hoping for an authentic set of throwing stars or some Hanzō steel, though, you'll have to look elsewhere.
There are a few business hotels in town, but no youth hostels.
- You've learned about the Iga ninja; now head to Koka, in Shiga prefecture, to hear their rivals' side of the story.
|Routes through Iga|
|Osaka ← Nara ←||W E||→ Kameyama → Nagoya|