Togakushi is home to the Togakure-ryu ninjas. This traditional ninjutsu, which literally means, “the School of the Hidden Door,” started in the 12th century. Along with Iga and Koga, Togakure-ryu is one of the three major schools of ninjutsu in Japan. It was allegedly founded by Daisuke Nishina, also known as Daisuke Togakure. Deeply influenced by the samurai martial arts, Togakure-ryu consists of a small number of physical escape and evasion techniques. Togakure-ryu ninja also focused on techniques of stealth such as disguise, signaling, and poison-making.
In the Heian period, Togakushi became one of the most famous ascetic places in Japan for Shinbutsu-shugo, a blended religion based on Shinto mountain worship and Buddhism. Many people came here to practice the ascetic ritual called, Shugendo. A total of 33 hidden caves in the mountain provided followers a place to meditate for stays of several weeks or longer. The dense forests of Togakushi, the harsh weather conditions in winter, and the rocky cliffs of Mt. Togakushi made it an ideal location for building physical and mental resilience. There, the ninjas also learned about medicinal plants and foraging for survival. After this harsh experience, some of them went back down to the village of Togakushi to work as ninja in the service of feudal lords and were hired to engage in spy activities.
The first Chinese character of the word ninja means “to bear” and expresses exactly what a Ninja was; a person endowed with strength, great mental vigor and patience able to endure any kind of situation and maintain self-control no matter what happens. Actually, nowadays ninja techniques, known as Ninjutsu, are used to avoid conflict whenever possible. In fact it is very close to the Japanese concept of harmony, which is also a fundamental of the ninja spirit.
Here in Togakushi, you can visit the Togakushi Folk Museum with various attractions and activities related to the Togakure-ryu ninja’s discipline. Here you’ll find a displayed collection of ninjas weapon such as shuriken and arrows. And for families with children, you’ll definitely want to visit the Kids’ Ninja Village. Please be aware that both are closed during winter.