Ever dreamed of fulfilling your Hokage fantasies and finally becoming a Naruto in the making? If yes, then now is your chance! In a small village in northern Nagano (長野) Prefecture, stands a unique theme park that will satisfy your ninja yearnings in a very fun and playful way! Chibikko Ninja Village (Kids’ Ninja Village-チビッ子忍者村), with all its exciting and stimulating ninja-themed attractions, allows people to experience being a ninja for a day. Although named “Kids’ Ninja Village,” this theme park is great for both children and adults who are young at heart.
Chibikko Ninja Village is located in the middle of Togakushi (戸隠), a scenic mountainous area in northern Nagano. Aside from being famous for its pilgrimage sites and delicious soba noodles, Togakushi is also the legendary home of the Togakure Ninja School which played undercover roles during the 15th and 16th century. Just like an actual ninja village, Chibikko Ninja Village is set in the woods giving visitors the adventure vibe of being a real ninja.
For as low as 500 yen for elementary students to adults and 230 yen for kids aged 4 to 6 years, visitors can enter a new world.
To make it even more realistic, the park also offers ninja costumes available for rent. Keep in mind that the courses and attractions can make you a little dirty or worse, wet! So if you would like to experience all the fun without worrying about soaking yourself, renting a costume would be a good idea! Plus, it definitely adds to the excitement!
The park has a wide range of interesting attractions like the Shinobi Karakuri Fushigi Yashiki (Labyrinth Wonder House), Ninja Slalom (Exciting Sleigh Ride), Shuriken Throwing, and Ninjutsu Yashiki (House of Ninja Tricks). All these attractions can be enjoyed during a day trip, but I, unfortunately, did not get to try them all when I visited the park as I arrived late (cheers to my excellent time management). But of course, who would want to miss checking out even just one of them?
Just a heads up, some attractions in the park charge a separate 300-yen fee per person per facility apart from the village admission fee. If you do not want to spend for additional fees, then fret not! The park also has a wide selection of attractions that require no payment but are still absolutely fun and perfect for ninja wannabes like us.
Take up the challenges of ninja training to become one yourself with the park’s athletic attractions which consist of towers, swings, net climbs, rope bridges, slides, tightropes, and playhouses.
Ninjutsu Yashiki (House of Ninja Tricks)
My friend and I thought of checking out the mysterious Ninjutsu Yashiki and got ourselves ready to unveil its secrets! This ninja trick house is an ordinary-looking building from the outside (well, at least in the old times) that actually has secret passages, hidden doors, and illusions inside. It is perfect to explore with less crowd, or better yet alone, as it gives more thrill and excitement in discovering where to go and which passage to take. Although not too big, this attraction is definitely fun to visit!
Mizugumo (Water-Walking Spider) Pond
One of the popular attractions that are free of charge in this ninja village is the Mizugumo Pond. “Mizugumo” originated from the words “mizu,” which means water, and “gumo,” which means spider. So it literally means “walking like a spider on water.”
This attraction is one of the most popular with adults as it challenges them to master the ninja skill of water walking by pulling a rope to cross a pond while standing on a makeshift raft. Although this ninja skill is deemed to be a myth by others, this should not hinder ninja wannabes to experience one of the coolest things ever about being a ninja!
Mizugumo Pond is definitely a test of balance as one wrong move can get you soaked! When I was at the park, I saw many people trying out this attraction and most of the adults gave up without even crossing halfway. And because I wanted to think I could do better, I accepted my friend’s challenge and tried it twice! Hurray! I could not even balance myself on the raft for 5 seconds. Great.
In some other occasions, the village holds a competition wherein competitive ninja wannabes cross the pond and race to the end.
Another popular attraction is Tightrope Walking. Here, visitors have to cross tightropes from one tower to another by balancing and holding onto guide ropes. This may seem a little scary just by looking at it, but it is actually easy! Cringing for a moment is a given, but once you get started, you will surely get the hype and do it again!
And if you are worried about falling, you should not be! The attraction is geared with a safety net and guide ropes, so there is nothing to fret. Plus, visitors can choose between tightropes of a lower or a taller height. I would definitely recommend the taller one, though!
Although some obstacle courses are geared towards kids, there are others in another side of the park that are more advanced and can surely wear out even the most energetic adult like me. Okay, that is an exaggeration. But really, to those of you who would not want to take a difficult path in being a ninja, I would advise you to enjoy the easier course that would definitely bring out the inner child in you. (Like for real. Believe me!)
When you visit the park, make sure to just enjoy the chance of being a child again and just fool around. I remember my friend and I running the courses together with some cute little kids. And guess what? We were not the only adults! Many others were on the nets and tightropes seizing the moment of being in the middle of a forested park, unplugged from the outside world. And it was worth it! Just take your time to explore and discover what each facility can offer.
Apart from all the attractions in the area that can put your physical abilities to test, there is also a place where you can nurture your mind with the stories of the past. Curious about the life of ninjas and want to know more about their history? Check out the Togakushi Ninja Museum located right next to the Shuriken Throwing attraction. It features many different items related to ninjutsu – the strategy and discipline practiced by the ninja.
The museum has a wide display that includes historically valuable secret scrolls and authentic ninja weapons which one could only imagine seeing in movies or anime! It also exhibits a huge collection of ninja figures and ninja movie and anime posters. Informative posters about ninjutsu techniques are also posted in the area to give the visitors an idea of the different skills a ninja possesses. Indeed, there is so much to see in this museum and yet it is free of charge!
Just so you know, ninjas do not just work hard all the time. They also get hungry! (Who knows if they are picky eaters, too?)
Inside the park, you can grab a delicious bite at the cafeteria called Nin-Nin that offers ninja-themed burgers, hot dogs, pancakes, and ice cream at affordable prices. They also serve special burgers and hot dogs on top of the regular ones that have become popular among guests. Their Premium Ninja Black Burger has an edible shuriken on top (yes, edible because it is made from bread) and their Ninja Dog is a hot dog bun that resembles a ninja sword also known as “katana” in Japanese.
Snacks, pasta, ramen, sweets, and desserts are also available at the Sasuke Tea House and at the NINTAN Sweets Hut. Of course, they also have a wide selection of cold and hot refreshments with some special drinks like floats and blended drinks.
After all the running, climbing, and unlimited ninja poses, you surely deserve to be rewarded with all these good food!
You must be imagining yourself now wearing a ninja costume, running around the courses with all smiles while reading this part. But hey, there is more! What else is better than being in action with fellow ninjas?
Aside from all the attractions, Chibikko Ninja Village also organizes various events such as festivals and competitions for everyone! They have some of the most interesting contests like the Shuriken Throwing (Throwing Stars) Battle, Mizugumo (Ninja Water Walking) Race, and Ninjutsu (Ninja Techniques) Time Race. Participants can enjoy competing against fellow ninja wannabes and take home special prizes!
The park also holds a festival every August called the Oni-bi (jack-o’-lantern) Festival which sounds like a Halloween-themed one which is… uh, held a bit earlier? But yeah, who cares anyway as long as it’s fun!
And have I already mentioned about their ninja shows? Yes, you have read that right! One of the most exciting things to look forward to in this park every year are their shows that feature ninjas showcasing their combat techniques through battle performances. Who knows, they might be real! They even hold training sessions called Ninja Taiken to train participants on how to properly execute ninjutsu techniques like throwing shuriken, blow darts, and stealth.
Now, I guess everything has already been mentioned except for one. Souvenirs!
If you would like to take home not just photos and memories with you, then head up to the park’s omiyage (souvenir) shop called Nin-yu-sya and choose your favorite souvenir to bring home! The shop has so many ninja-themed goodies to choose from ranging in different sizes and kinds perfect as personal souvenirs or presents for friends. Small cell phone straps, keychains, magnets, home displays, ninja weapon toys made from plastic or rubber, and ninja costumes can be bought. To my surprise, even replicas of swords and ninja weapons that looked very real are on sale! At some point, I thought I was inside a museum. Only then did I realize I was not because of the tag prices next to each weapon!
Of course, a souvenir shop without sweets and snacks is incomplete! Different kinds of delicacies, biscuits, sweets, and snacks that are also ninja-themed are available here. Souvenir shirts, stationery, and many more finds are just waiting for you in this shop!
A visit to this souvenir shop even without buying anything will already satisfy your eyes with all the things present. If you are the type of customer like me who cannot decide on what to buy when in a store, then you might need to allot some time to spare only for this area as there are so many goods to choose from! Or, to make it easier, you can just buy them all. Who needs money if you are a ninja anyway?!
A day trip to this ninja village would not be complete without taking lots of pictures. Aside from the different attractions and facilities that can make you snap many shots, there is also a designated area where you can take souvenir photos bearing the name of the village. Some face-in-the-hole ninja boards can also be seen in the area, so make sure to enjoy taking photos with them!
The interesting Chibikko Ninja Village is only open from late April to November as the area of Togakushi receives heavy snowfall every winter. A lot of visitors visit every summer, but a visit in autumn gives you a bonus to witness the beautiful autumn foliage along the drive up the area.
The village operates from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, so make sure to spend your time well and enjoy all the attractions! Keep in mind, though, that it closes every Thursday during regular seasons, but opens daily during summer vacation from mid-July to the end of August. There are available parking spaces outside the village and ninja-themed restrooms inside. Chibikko Ninja Village is a 45-minute drive from Nagano Station in Nagano City.
The park also has a website where announcements, events, and other information like the village map, restaurant menus, and ninja performance videos are posted. Make sure to check it out for more information!
Chibikko Ninja Village is definitely a nirvana for ninja enthusiasts! With all the activities, facilities, and experiences that it offers, visitors would surely have a lot of fun-filled memories of being a ninja for a day! This is the place where I really enjoyed playing around in my not-so-old-yet-not-so-young age without worrying about anything – just my ninja poses. So if you have the chance to visit Nagano, head up to Togakushi for a playful ninja experience!