First Ninja Exam to be Held in Tokyo


The first ever ninja exam to be held in Tokyo will take place this October, with extra points awarded for turning up in full ninja gear.

Calling all wannabe ninjas! It has been announced that the Koga-style ninja exam (Kōga-ryū Ninja Kentei) will be held in Tokyo for the first time this autumn on 22nd October, 2017.

The exam this autumn will mark the tenth time that the Kōga-ryū Ninja Kentei has been held, and the first time that candidates will be able to sit the examination in a location other than Shiga prefecture, from where the Kōga style originates.

The exams in Tokyo will take place at Zōjōji Temple in Minato Ward, a temple that is associated with the Tokugawa shogun clan. The links between the Kōga ninja and the Tokugawa household date back to the Warring States period (c. 1467-1603), when the ninja of Kōga and Iga helped Ieyasu Tokugawa as he was escaping from Osaka to Mikawa in Aichi prefecture via Iga in Mie prefecture in the “Honnō-ji incident”.

This year’s beginner’s level exam will include fifty multiple choice questions on subjects that every ninja should know inside-out, such as the activities of the Kōga ninja during the warring States period (hint: there’s a big clue in the previous paragraph!), and the authors of various ninja-related novels and manga, as well as demonstration of practical skills vital to the success (not to mention, survival) of any self-respecting ninja, such as hurling of shuriken (throwing stars).

Candidates who attend the exam dressed as a ninja will receive up to five extra points for their efforts, so don’t forget to pack your blowgun, throwing stars, and grappling hook as well as your pencil and eraser.

The ninja exam has been held in Kōga city every year since 2008. The following year an intermediate level was added, and in 2014 an advanced level including essay-writing questions was also introduced. Candidates who successfully pass their exam are awarded their very own ninja licence in the form of a graduation scroll.

Prospective candidates can apply to sit the exam to Kōga City Tourism Association by fax or email. It costs 3000 yen (£20.60) to sit the exam - a relatively small price to pay for becoming a fully licensed ninja! Exam places are limited to the first 200 people to apply.

Shuriken (ninja throwing stars)

Enter the World of the Ninja

If you can’t wait until October to become a fully-fledged ninja - or if sitting paper and pencil exams just isn’t your thing - then why not head to one of these ninja-related sites in Japan and immerse yourself in the shadowy world of Japan’s infamous arch assassins...

Iga Ninja Museum, Mie

Iga-style Ninja Museum

The Iga school of ninjutsu (art of stealth) was one of Japan’s two leading ninja schools during the feudal era (the Kōga school is the other). At the Iga Ninja Museum in Iga-Ueno, you can bone up for the exam by learning about ninja costumes, weapons, gadgets, way of life and practical techniques in the museum’s bilingual exhibition before joining a guided tour of the ninja residence.

Although it looks like an ordinary house from outside, the building is in fact studded with a variety of uniquely ninja-like contraptions, such as trap doors, hidden compartments, and revolving walls. If you survive the house without being ambushed by an invisible ninja, head to the stage to watch a real-life ninja show featuring authentic ninja skills and real weapons!

Togakushi Shrine, Nagano

Togakushi Shrine, Nagano
The next step on any comprehensive ninja pilgrimage should be Togakushi Shrine on the outskirts of Nagano City. Be on the lookout for enemies as you stealthily hike upward through the forested hillside until you reach the middle shrine. At its Kids Ninja Village your tiny ninjas-in-training can tackle outdoor obstacle courses, practice using blow darts and throwing stars, and escape from two ninja mansions riddled with trap doors, secret passages and dastardly booby traps.

A further uphill trek brings you to Togakure Ninpo Museum at the upper shrine, dedicated to the local Togakure style of ninja. Here, it’s your turn to learn about the tools, weapons and techniques used by the ninja in the museum’s exhibition, find your way out of the serpentine maze inside the ninja house, and hone your skills on the throwing star range.

Ninja Temple in Kanazawa, Ishikawa

Shuriken (ninja throwing stars)
Completing the ninja triumvirate, Kanazawa’s Ninja Temple (Ninja-dera), properly called Myōryūji Temple, is another must-visit for any true ninja fan. While not officially associated with any ninja clan, the temple earned its nickname due to the many ingenious contraptions built into its structure - secret rooms, hidden tunnels, traps and labyrinthine corridors and staircases, to name but a few.

If a temple bristling with fortifications sounds a bit strange, that is because Myōryūji Temple was actually not a temple at all! It was actually a military outpost for nearby Kanazawa Castle disguised as a temple, designed so that its guardians could escape and warn the castle inhabitants in case of an incoming invasion or attack. You can view the inside of the temple-cum-garrison on a guided tour.

Ninja Akasaka (restaurant), Tokyo

Ninja performance
Enjoy a serving of ninjutsu with your dinner at this ninja-themed restaurant in Tokyo. Waiters dressed as ninjas usher your to your table through a series of hidden doors and winding corridors designed to resemble the inside of a castle, and the menu includes ninja-themed dishes that conceal a few surprises… You’ll also be treated to a ninja magic show right at your table.

World Samurai Summit 2017

Shuriken in a target

The inaugural World Samurai Summit was held in November 2016 in the city of Nagakute near Nagoya in central Japan. Last year's event was a samurai- and ninja-related extravaganza featuring everything from processions and reenactments to sword-fighting displays and performances on the Ninja Corps Demonstration Stage. Look forward to the event again this autumn, with plenty more of the same - more details to follow.

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