In March 2015 the new Hokuriku Shinkansen line started opening up the historic city of Kanazawa to more tourists than ever before.
Kanazawa is one of Japan’s best kept secrets, a beautiful city that is rich in both culture and history with one of the best preserved samurai and geisha districts in all of Japan.
If you are keen to check out the main attractions of Kanazawa, take a look at my article “Kanazawa: Japan’s Best Kept Secret”.
Photo : Henry Burrows on Flickr
One place that I didn’t cover in that article that is also worth checking out in Kanazawa is Ninjadera, The Ninja Temple of Kanazawa.
Photo : buck82 on Flickr
Ninjadera, also commonly known as Myōryū-ji is a Buddhist temple belonging to the Nichiren sect of Buddhism.
The temple is not actually associated with ninja and was never home to the shadow assassins, but earned its cool nickname due to its many deceptive defences and cunning traps and trickery.
Photo : kristisan on Flickr
The History of Ninjadera
The temple was built in 1585 by the famous samurai warlord Maeda Toshiie, feudal lord of Kaga Domain which is modern day Ishikawa Prefecture. The temple was originally built near Kanazawa Castle as a place of prayer for the Maeda family, but was later moved in 1643 by the third lord of Kaga Domain in preparation for an emergency attack. The Maeda family considered the temple a shield to protect Kanazawa Castle from any attack and protect the gold-rich lands of Kanazawa.
The Tokugawa Shogunate imposed strict building restrictions during the Edo period, so Ninjadera was designed to circumvent these restrictions and serve as a disguised military outpost to alert the castle in the event of an attack. The temple was supplemented with considerable defences and escape routes that were cunning and ingenious in both their design and function.
The temples defences include hidden tunnels, secret rooms, traps and a labyrinth of corridors and staircases that any ninja would be proud of and hence the name of Ninjadera.
Photo : buck82 on Flickr
Features of Ninjadera
During the Edo period the Tokugawa Shogunate prohibited the construction of buildings higher than three stories tall. Ninjadera got away with this by appearing to be a two-story building from the outside when in fact it is actually a four-story building with a seven-layer internal structure.
From the outside it looks just like a simple temple with 2 floors and is nothing special, but once inside you’ll find that is contains very complex architecture with 4 floors, 7 tiers with 23 chambers and 29 staircases.
It is said that once you enter Ninjadera, its layout is so confusing and complex that it is impossible to find your way out!
The building was designed to fool the enemy from both the outside and inside with hidden chambers and stairs, completely unexpected and reversible trap like doors and floors, and escape pits.
Photo : Keith Rose on Flickr
The temple is also said to be connected via a tunnel to Kanazawa Castle making it a perfect escape route for any oncoming attack.
Ninjadera is an interesting off the beaten track attraction to visit in Kanazawa and well worth a look. You need to make a reservation to visit in advance since a tour of the temple must be conducted by tour guides.
Address: 1 Chome 2-12 Nomachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 921-8031
Hours: Open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (until 4:00 during winter)
Closed: January 1 and Buddhist service days
Admission: 800 yen (reservations required)
Take the Left Loop of the Kanazawa Loop Bus to Hirokoji bus stop, where you can walk to the temple in about five minutes. The bus costs 200 yen and takes around 15 minutes