Ninja Trick House Museum: Discovering the Secrets of the Ninja
Updated: Jan 15
I am the author of Touring Tokyo. In Chapter 4 of my book, I describe in great detail this amazing and exhilarating place, where you are able to place yourself into the shoes of a ninja. Buy this book below to find a jewel of places to visit in Tokyo.
Nestled in the heart of Shinjuku, Japan (Tokyo’s major red light district) lies the Ninja Trick House. The house is ironically located in a seemingly clandestine area, and therefore is difficult to find. I secured my reservation prior to the day of visiting the Ninja Trick House. Using my phone’s gps, I searched assiduously for this place. I showed two local Japanese people (who were very familiar with the area) a Japanese map and the possible location of the Ninja Trick House. Speaking decent English, the Japanese people informed me that they had never heard of the place. That told me immediately this place is not advertised. Nevertheless, after following the directional arrow on the gps several times, I happened to spot a small sign posted outside of a tenant building. The sign displayed the image of a ninja and the name of the Trick house.
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The Ninja Trick House is located on the 3rd floor of the tenant building. You will take a spiral like staircase to the 3rd floor. Once you reach the floor, you will espy bright red tori gates (passage ways to a shrine).
As you gradually walk through a row of about 9 torii gates, you are welcomed with such a traditional vibe. After passing through the gates, you will observe an image of a ninja wearing a black ninja suit and brandishing a fiery sword. To the left of the ninja is a image of a man having great stamina. When you turn left into the Ninja Trick House, you can find a myriad of souvenirs-everything from surikens, mock ninja swords, and other cool items. As I entered into the area, I heard some people talking. Not seeing anyone, I yelled, すみません “sumimasen,” which means “excuse me” in English.
A black haired Japanese lady heard my voice and came around to the front of the cash register, which was located in the souvenir shop. She greeted me with a bow and I informed her that I made reservations for the Ninja Trick House. Before I had time to tell her my name, she said, “you must be Zack?” “Hai” I replied. She ushered me through some doors and instructed me to take off my shoes. After taking off my shoes, I waited patiently for customers to show up. The ninja conducts sessions in groups. While staring intently at the wall, I saw two boards posted on it contrasting a ninja and samurai. I learned the ninja was an elite warrior who was entrusted with the pertinent responsibility of executing clandestine and spying missions, including—(1) Assassination, (2) Sabotage, (3) Surveillance, and (4) Espionage. Given these examples, Ninjas did not regard their decision of escaping the presence of their enemies as ignominious. In fact, their priority involved successfully accomplishing their missions. Conversely, samurais believed that they must remain on the battle fields until victory was won. Their supreme loyalty was manifested by exercising courage on the battle fields.
While reading and mulling over these differences, a group of people entered into the room. After taking our seats, we watched a short video about the Ninja Trick House. Some of the important figures and events that were shared in the video included the following: (1) Magellan fleet sailed around the world in 1519, (2) The birth of Oda Nobunaga in 1534, (3) Copernicus in 1543, (4) The Battle of Okinawa in 1560, (5) The enthronement of Elizabeth I, (6) The Battle of Armada in 1588, and (6) The Battle of Sexigahara in 1600. The video ended with the appearance of a ninja aiming his sword over his left hand while lightning flashed constantly in the background. A question was then posed: Are you ready? Then the ninja instructor in the Trick House suddenly popped out of some doors and placed his fist in fighting mode like he was about to start an altercation with us. His face and head were covered by a black ninja uniform.
The ninja instructor motioned us into an area that had a tatami mat. While inside, he issued everyone a wooden ninja sword that was attached to a sling; and, he adjusted the sling to our comfort level. We were then asked to form a circle. The purpose of the circle was for the instructor to show us how to properly draw a sword. As you begin to remove the sword by placing one hand on the sword handle and the other hand on the sheath, you would then rotate your hips and draw the sword. This action happens simultaneously.
The ninja began to demonstrate karkuri (tricks) to us. After fastening the swords to our bodies, the ninja proceeded to show us a (1) 苦無 Kunia, (2) Hidden wall, (3) Ninja claw, (4) Kusarigama, and a (5) Sword umbrella.
First, a kunia was considered a black dagger that was traditionally used on the farm. Over time though the kunia was incorporated into the realm of the ninja. The kunia served two major purposes: (1) Throwing at an opponent or (2) Stabbing an opponent. Whichever technique the ninja decided to execute against his opponent, both techniques proved to be effective. One reason for this argument is that traditionally ninjas would locate poison frogs in Japan and extract their poison. Upon extracting the poison, the ninjas would save it; When needed, the ninjas would dip the kunia inside the poison and secure the kunia until the time of battle.
The ninja is holding a kunia.
Second, the hidden wall was created as a safe haven for ninjas in the case their home was vandalized. The ninja at the Ninja Trick House lifted up a banner written in kanji and pulled out a 武器 buki (weapon).
Third, the buki, specifically the metal ninja claw, was utilized for climbing up a building or tree, or stabbing an opponent. Other uses of the claw are very unique. For instance, when an opponent attempted to strike with his/her sword, the ninja would block the sword with the claw. What was advantageous for the ninja utilizing this weapon is that he/she could also trap the sword and hence attack the enemy. The ninja claw was reminiscent of Wolverine’s claw hand.
Fourth, the ninja grabbed a kama tied to a kusari-fundo (metal chain attached to a ball). The kusarigama (as it was named) was traditionally used by both Filipinos and Japanese people for reaping or cutting crops. It was a not only a versatile tool on the farm but also an effective weapon in the realm of ninjutsu. It’s razor sharp stainless blade can cause significant damage to the opponent. In Season 3 Episode 8 of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Michelangelo brandished a kama. The ninja brandishing the kursarigama had the advantage of defeating multiple opponents and swinging the weapon at a fast speed. The ninja’s disadvantage, however, was that it had a lesser impact on stronger and larger opponents.
Fifth, the sword umbrella proved as a secret weapon. During the rainy seasons, the ninja could use the umbrella to protect himself/herself from the rain. Whenever the ninja deemed himself/herself in danger though, the ninja could remove the sword from the umbrella and attack and stab the enemy. The umbrella handle was actually a sword.
Following the showcase of weapons, the ninja presented a secret board inside the room. While lifting the board up, he used it as a blocker against his opponents. He dropped to his knees, and removed his kunai keeping his body covered by the board. Then he pretended like he was stabbing his enemy. Next, he pulled out a graphical map of a typical ninja residence. The ninja commonly stored crops for winter as well as preserved weapons for battle. Since ninjas were considered spies, it was critical for them to be alert at all times because their residences were often raided by thieves. This raiding is the reason why ninjas created secreted passages inside their residence. They wanted to evade their enemy anytime.
Throughout the tour, the ninja demonstrated himself pulling out the sword from his sheath. He explained if his sword was on his back, it would be difficult for him/her to remove the sword quickly.
This is not the correct way to remove a sword.
To facilitate the removal of his sword, the ninja pulled the sheath and sword over his head and removed it from that position. The way in which the ninja removed his sword was very pertinent. If the ninja drew his sword from the sheath pointing the handle at the ceiling, he/she would be risking injury. Instead, the proper position of sword drawing involves removing the sword from the side to create a reasonable safe distance. This position is safe and effective because it allowed the ninja to neutralized his/her opponent quickly.
This is the correct position for removing a sword.
The remaining of the tour involved the ninja showing us a revolving trap door, demonstrating and teaching his sword skills, handing out surikens, as well as teaching us a ninja fighting stance.
To continue, like the self defense board that was explained above, the trap door was used for defensive purposes too. The ninja removed his kunai and quickly popped out the trap door acting as if he was stabbing his opponent.
Immediately after this demonstration, the ninja executed his ninja skills. His skills were precise and meticulous. Prior to demonstrating his skills, he performed a bow to his opponent. Bowing is a sign of respect. Bowing is not only observed in martial arts all over the world, especially Japan, but it is also witnessed in Japan as a whole. When you eat at a restaurant in Japan, it is common for Japanese waitresses to perform a bow to you before and after you leave the restaurant. Nevertheless, the ninja in the Trick House meticulously removed his sword after the bow and he struck at the side of the opponent as well as the area of the solar plexus. Subsequent to executing this technique, the ninja secured his sword and performed another bow to his opponent.
I was elated when I discovered I could have the opportunity to apply the sword skills as well as suriken skills that were taught to us. When it became time for me to use my sword on the dummy opponent, I asked the ninja if he could video me. He was glad to hold my camera. The first and second blows made contact to the dummy’s left side. The last blow, however, made direct contact to the neck. Interestingly, after striking the neck of the dummy opponent, the ninja asked me if I had some kind of martial arts training. I told him I had a black belt in Issinryu karate. What I did not share was that I had been exposed to a variety of martial arts including– (1) Taekwondo, (2) Brazilian Jitsu, (3) Judo, (4) Muay Thai, as well as (5) Ninjutsu. I executed my final blow to the top of the opponent’s head. Reflecting upon the strikes, if I had been using a stainless steel sword, I could have created substantial damage to my opponent.
The final technique I executed involved throwing surikens or ninja stars. While taking ninjutsu for several years, I taught myself how to properly throw ninja stars effectively. However, when I threw the ninja stars at this Ninja house, I noticed that my skills had waned some. It has been my experience that if you do not use a technique, you will lose it. That has been true with some martial arts styles I have learned. That wise saying has also proven to be true with the 6 foreign languages I have taught myself over the years.
Historically, like the kunai’s, the ninja stars were dipped into frog poison and were reserved for the time of battle. During that time the ninja would pierce his/her opponent with the ninja star by throwing it forcefully.
The ninja ended the tour by presenting a proper ninja stance. The way in which you perform this technique involves cupping your hand while pointing a finger to the ceiling. The other hand grabs the finger (that is pointing up). That is the ninja stance. While holding this technique, the ninja would ask us to say “ninja” several times.
Overall, I enjoyed the tour at the Ninja Trick House. I learned much about the way of ninjas and I was able to practice what I had been taught. This place is excellent both for friends and families to gather insight about the secrets of the ninja.
The cost of the tour for one person was 1,100 yen ($9.70 including tax). Children who are below the age of 3 will be admitted into the Ninja Trick House for free. The hours of operation are from 10:00-2100 (last admission is 20:30) Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The business is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Make sure you make a reservation for before you arrive at the place. You can reserve your seat at www.ninja-trick-house.com/en.