Iga Ninjas and Suzuka Onsen

Monday, February 15th was President’s Day in the U.S. It wasn’t a holiday in Japan but that didn’t stop us from taking the day off and going on a road trip. Funny thing was that I didn’t realize it was a holiday in the U.S. until after we came back. We had a great trip to Iga and Suzuka in Mie Prefecture with Joanna, Youko and Daisuke! Thank you, Daisuke, for doing all the research for our trip.

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Ninja (忍者) Museum

Our first stop was the Iga-Ryu Ninja Museum (伊賀流忍者博物館).

The tour guide showed us how ninja would install secret doors in their homes to hide from the enemy.

We made a friend at the museum, a recent law school graduate from Mexico City named, Manuel, who is currently studying Chinese in Beijing. Here’s Joanna, me and Manuel trying on the ninja chain mail vest.

After that we had beef-don for lunch at a nice restaurant.

After lunch we went to a cute dessert shop with a hilarious host, who claimed that his house was the last remaining ninja house.

As we were leaving, just after we stepped out into the street, the tea shop man rushed out with two fake pistols and shot them off right by Joanna’s head making a big sound. She screamed and laughed.

After our dessert, we headed back up the hill to visit the Iga Ueno Castle (伊賀上野城). The first level had a museum gallery of artifacts including a warrior helmet with ridiculous dragon-fly wings. We couldn’t resist each posing for a shot.

Onsen (温泉)

We said goodbye to our new friend Manuel and drove out to Suzuka in Mie Prefecture go to an onsen … my very first time to go to a Japanese onsen, much less any kind of spa. The Hana Shoubu Onsen (鈴鹿天然温泉花しょうぶ 三重のかけ流し天然温泉) dashed my preconceptions of what an onsen would be like. I had thought an onsen would be a really traditional Japanese building tucked away in the mountains. The Hana Shoubu Onsen, instead, was situated right in a ÆON Jusco mall in the middle of Suzuka City. The facility was completely modern. It’s lobby looked like the lobby of a nice hotel.

Even though it was so modern and well-appointed, our three hours there were surprisingly affordable. The weekday admission ticket to use the bath facilities was only 600 yen per adult. Including dinner for two at the onsen’s restaurant, we paid a total of 3,300 yen (about USD $36 according to WolframAlpha). What a deal!

The Japanese sure do know how to enjoy a hot bath. My favorite was the CO2 bath. It was like taking a bath in hot 7-Up. After being in the water about a minute or so, your skin gets covered with carbon dioxide bubbles.

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