Koka-ryu Ninjutsu Yashiki (甲賀流忍術屋敷), roughly translated as “Koka-style house of ninja techniques,” is also known as the Koka Ninja House in English. It is the former residence of Mochizuki Izumonokami (望月出雲守), the head of the leading family of the 53 Koka ninja families. Let’s take a journey to this last true ninja house located in Konan (甲南), Shiga (滋賀) Prefecture, which is also known as the birthplace of the ninja.
The village has a vast scenery of paddy fields and pre-war houses, which makes it a good opportunity for you to snap some good photographs. There aren’t many cars on the road and most of the time, the roads are empty so it is a pretty enjoyable 20-minute walk to the Koka Ninja House.
Midway there, you will find a local supermarket and a McDonald’s where you can have your meal. There is also a shop selling local goods such as sake, honey, pudding, and more. Next to the shop, there is a row of vending machines where you can buy yourself a drink after a long walk before proceeding to the house.
Along the way, you can see a number of signages with ninja cartoons on them, telling you that you are on the right track to the house! Before reaching the Koka Ninja House, you will find yourself a community hall wherein you can drop by and have a look.
The Koka Ninja House was built in the Genroku (元禄) era of the Edo (江戸) period (1688 to 1704). The house itself is located within a 20-minute walking distance from the Konan Station (江南駅) of the JR Kusatsu Line (草津線). There is a bus available but you might have to wait for it to come. You can ask for a map from the friendly personnel on duty at the station.
The Koka Ninja House staff will be giving explanations in Japanese so you might want to bring along someone who can help you with the translation. However, no worries as an English pamphlet is available upon request and there are explanatory signages in English situated in and around the house.
After paying the entrance fee at the entrance, visitors are given a pamphlet and the staff will lead them into a room. There will be a table in the middle of the room with a kettle of herbal tea, which visitors can feel free to drink. Once a number of people have gathered in the room, the tour will begin. Visitors are not allowed to take any photographs while the staff is giving a tour. The tour starts with a short introductory video on the Koga clan and the house, and the video is entirely in Japanese. Following the video, the staff will then guide the visitors around the house. After the guided tour ends, visitors can feel free to take as many photographs as they like!
From the outside, the Koka Ninja House looks like a typical farmhouse. But inside the house lies many secret features such as trap doors and hidden passages which help to protect its residents from enemies. The house was also used as a trap to lure enemies into it, either to be killed or to be forced to leak out information. There are also artifacts dated back into the Edo period such as old ninja scripts, deadly ninja weapons, protective clothing, and medicine making tools on display. Visitors are given the chance to explore some of those hidden passages and climb secret stairs but some exhibits remain untouchable. The artifacts and traps are accompanied by written explanations in Japanese and English.
For an extra fee, visitors can experience shuriken (手裏剣 – also known as ninja star) throwing with a staff guiding the visitors on how to throw them. After visitors are done with the tour, there is a corner nearby the entrance/exit where souvenirs can be bought! The souvenirs include rubber shuriken, traditional Japanese pouches, ninja swords, and more. They are even selling real makibishi (撒菱) spikes, a type of spike weapon thrown on the ground to poke the enemy’s feet, which are made from dried water chestnuts, a type of aquatic plant found in marshes.
For visitors who do not feel like taking public transport, you can rent a car. The Koka Ninja House is just 3 minutes away by car from the Shin-Meishin (新名神) Expressway to the Kounan Interchange and a gas station is available in town. The vast parking space in front of the house is free of charge.
For those who are taking the train, get off at the Konan Station of the JR Kusatsu Line. The distance from the station to the Koka Ninja House is about 2 kilometers. Note that the station only uses normal ticketing system, so visitors are not advised to use their IC cards when they board the train in the beginning of the journey.
However, do not worry if you have used the card and just follow these steps: First thing upon arriving at the Konan Station, show your IC card to the officer at the counter and tell him/her which station you came from. Following that, you will be given a small piece of paper with some details and a stamp on it. This paper has to be kept with you all the way until you have safely reached back.
When heading back, you have to purchase a ticket from the machine at Konan Station. Upon reaching your desired station, do not scan your IC card! Instead, go to the counter and hand it over together with your ticket and the piece of paper given to you earlier by the officer on duty. The amount of your earlier travel, from your station to Konan Station, will then be subtracted from your card.
Moreover, for those who are traveling by train, remember to check the time for the last train since the only train available in town is the JR Kusatsu Line! Visitors are also advised to come during non-school holidays to avoid the crowd as parents love to bring their kids to this place.
Address: 2331 Ryuboshi (竜法師), Konan-cho, Koka City, Shiga
Contact: 0748-86-2179 (TEL), 0748-86-7505 (FAX)
Open hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (entrance until 4:30 pm)
Holidays: Closed on 27th December to 2nd January (Opens every day for the rest of the year)
- Adults (junior high school students and above) – 650 yen
- Children (4 years old and above) – 350 yen
- Group admission:
- more than 30 adults – 600 yen per head
- children – 300 yen per head