So on Sunday after I met up with Jared, Andy and Anna, we tromped through the minor misting drizzle that is Kanazawa's weather to Myoryuji, the fabled Ninja-Dera. Andy is a big fan of all things Ninja (but really, who isn't?) and so really wanted to check out the Ninja Temple.
I had been there with mom back during Golden Week, but one can go in by tour only and it was really really jammed so we skipped it. Really its one of those tourist attractions that you live right next to, it is literally only about 4 blocks from my apartment, but never go to until you have guests.
Well on a random rainy afternoon, we got in without any problems. We stashed our stuff, including cameras, unfortunatly, and joined the Japanese-language only guided tour.
The reason for Myoryuji's Ninja nickname is the plethora of secret rooms, traps and hidden escape routes. In feudal times the temple was actually outside of the city walls, and was the place of worship of the Maeda lords. There was even a carefully hidden room that would allow the lord to attend the temple without any of the public knowing he was there.
The secret rooms were all built as ways of protecting the Lord. Some were little hidden closets that samurai could crouch in, peering out into the main room and ready to leap into the action if their services were required.
There was also a hidden trap door in the floor that lead to a rather dank looking escape tunnel. Of course being Japan, if escape proved impossible then there was a special 4 tatami mat room (4 being Shi which is also death in Japanese) that was reserved an an inner sanctum for the lord to commit seppuku.
The coolest little contraption was was a sliding door that when slid one way went upstairs, when slid the other went outside. Ingenious!
Sadly, all these hidden surprises had absolutly nothing to do with Ninja, it was all just regular Samurai Secret Service types, protecting the big cheese. The Ninja-Dera name is all just a misnomer.
I must admit, that while it was an interesting tour, it was not *that* interesting. They did have handy English guidebooks that explained everything, but the fact that one had to trail around a Japanese language tour with a tour guide that took forever to explain things combined with the fact that many of the cooler things (like the deep dark dank escape passage) were off limits did lower the appeal somewhat.
Overall a solid 6/10 points. Fun, and good if you have some time to kill, but certainly not the killer thing to see while in Kanazawa.