On the way back from the hill, we visited Yamaguchiya Soba restaurant. They specialize in making Togakushi Soba with a unique concept. The recommended menu is Ninja Soba (cold soba with shredded radish, vegetable tempura and original walnut soba sauce). Moreover, they have a ninja menu for ladies called the Kunoichi Soba that comes with a Japanese dessert. Both menus are ninja-themed with edible components such as shredded radish that represents ninja smoke bombs.
Mr. Yamaguchi, the owner of Yamaguchiya and ninja master, told us that the secret to make delicious Togakushi soba are premium ingredients and pure water. He also said that in training to be a ninja, energy is extremely necessary so food that contains a lot of energy but can also be easily digested and healthy such as soba, is the best menu for ninja.
Currently, Mr. Yamaguchi is an instructor for ninja training as well. Some ninja trainees are not local Japanese, and some even came all the way from Europe to explore the way of the ninja with different purposes. The key to be a ninja is not complicated techniques, high power or good items but ability to adapt all ninja skills. Moreover, those skills are for defend and protect ourselves not for attack others.
After being closed for renovations in February 2016, the RIHGA Royal Hotel Kyoto was reopened on Sep. 8th to provide outstanding levels of service to all its customers. It was their first full renovation project since it opened in 1969, and the hotel now serves as a modern landmark of the area. The concept of the renovation was to create a Warm Contemporary Japanese Style, which seamlessly integrates materials that symbolize Kyoto’s original landscape, such as bamboo and stones, into a modern architectural design. The entrance and lobby are decorated with lighting fixtures highlighting the stone art on the floor. Walking through the entrance, customers can immerse themselves in the wonderful world of Japanese aesthetics.
The concept continues all the way to the 10th floor with all 489 rooms getting a full makeover. WAttention staff got to stay in a Premium Suite Room on the 9th floor, an area designated for premium customers. The room was decorated with a bamboo forest theme with a subdued palette creating a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Included in the room were luxurious amenities such as a Nespresso coffee machine and interior items from Kohchosai Kosuga, a Japanese premium brand of bamboo craft. The rooms on the 3th – 7th floor also convey the same warm and welcoming feel in the contemporary Japanese style.
Another highlight of the hotel is the All Day Dining at the Kaza restaurant. The restaurant provides a variety of Japanese and western food and sweets, made with carefully selected seasonal ingredients. You can enjoy high quality and delicious meals in a buffet style from breakfast to dinner.
Only a 7-minute walk from Kyoto Station, this is a great place to pamper yourself with luxury design and services.
RIHGA Royal Hotel Kyoto
Address: 1 Taimatsu-cho, Shiokoji-sagaru, Higashi Horikawa-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Access: 7-min walk from Kyoto Station, Free Shuttle Bus departs from Kyoto Station every 15 minutes from 7:30am – 9pm
Tel: +81 (0)75-341-1121
After accomplishing a tranquil mind like a ninja, we moved on to the ninja house!
Just across the road from the entrance from Okusha, we arrived at the Togakushi Folk Museum, Togakushi Ninja Museum and the Ninja Karakuri Yashiki (Ninja Trick House) which are all located in same area.
In the Togakushi Folk Museum, there is an exhibition of tools and items that were mainly used for daily use and farming. We were impressed by the ingenuity of these functional and convenient items.
Togakushi Ninja Museum was built like a two-story house. While visiting the first floor, we learned the lifestyle of ninja that doubled as farmers. After climbing to the second floor, the atmosphere changed completely. The long history and way of ninja were revealed there. Historical documents, pictures of mysterious techniques and items are shown here to make you wonder about how they can do all of this!
The Ninja Karakuri Yashiki is the highlight of this place as both adults and kids can enjoy finding their way out of the maze-like building. The Ninja Karakuri Yashiki was built based on tricks used by ninjas, so it is easy to go into the house but difficult to find your way out. In the past, this kind of trick was a great way for ninja to escape their enemies. All rooms seem like normal rooms, but if you cannot think like ninja, you may not find the right direction to reach the exit. The most impressive room in the Ninja Karakuri Yashiki is the room with a sloped floor so we have to walk upward against the gravity.
In other areas, there are game corners, and a souvenir shop in Ninja theme.
Hours: 9.00 – 17.00 (Last entry 16.30)
*In 2016, opened 23 Apr – 23 May
*From 6 Nov, open only on Saturday, Sunday and Holiday.
Admission: Adults 600 yen, Kids 400 yen
After taking an approx. 1,5 hour trip by Shinkansen from Tokyo, we arrived at Nagano Station. This time our destination is Togakushi which is located in the northern part of Nagano Prefecture. Togakushi is the birthplace of the mysterious Togakushi Ninja. Our first stop was Togakushi Shrine which is mainly related to the sun goddess Amaterasu in Japan mythology. The shrine consits of 5 shrines called Okusha, Chusha, Houkousha, Kuzuryusha, Hinomikosha. However, this time we focused only on Chusha, Okusha and Kuzuryusha.
The first thing we saw in front of Chusha Shrine was a gigantic Torii, a traditional Japanese gate which can commonly found in front of shrines. Moreover, there are 3 enormous trees that made us feel like we received power from nature as we drew close. Following Japanese traditional etiquette when visiting shrines, we washed our hands with the crystal clear water from the pond. This is a symbol of cleaning up body and mind before entering a spiritual place like the shrine.
The most impressive thing about this shrine was Omikuji (fortune draw) which normally shows good or bad luck. Omikuji is usually just numbers written on a paper, but this shrine gives your fortune in the form of a letter. After telling our age to the shrine, we got a specially selected Omikuji, a letter that was supposedly given by the deity of the shrine. Usually, people should draw this omikuji only once a year and carefully keep it and refer to it throughout the year as a letter from the god.
In the main hall of Chusha, there was another must-see spot, which is the painting of the great dragon, one of the deities worshiped there. Apart from that, we also enjoyed seeing pure water fall in a well-known nature power spot for monks to make their physical and mental training and for normal people to escape from their busy daily lives.
The next stop for training our mind as a ninja was Okusha. The approach to Okusha is around 2 kilometers from the entrance. In the past, no matter they were great people or farmers, everyone had to leave their horses near the entrance and walk step by step to the spiritual shrine as equals. On both sides of the path, you can enjoy ancient cedar trees that have been standing for more than 400 years to welcome visitors and clear your mind as you walk down the green pathway.
Afterwards, we arrived at the red Zuijinmon. In winter the ground will be covered by white snow, providing a gorgeous contrast to the color of the gate. We passed through this historical gate to enter another natural pathway ringed with cedar forest.
Finally we saw Okusha up on the hill with the scenery of Togakushi Mountain as its backdrop. Some folktales said that Amaterasu, mighty goddess of the sun hid her body in the cave on this location so other gods and people held the celebration to bring her out. Since the god of this shrine, Amaterasu, is known as the major deity and the goddess of agriculture as well, the symbol of the shrine is crossed sickles which represents the relation between the shrine and agricultural life of the people throughout its long history.
A short distance from Okusha, there is Kuzuryusha built for the nine-headed dragon deity Kuzuryu, where people commonly pray about the weather. Furthermore, the deity is also believed to be the god of teeth and the god of love. Even now, people still offer food and fruits to the Dragon God in the forest.
Access: From Tokyo to Nagano: Shinkansen Hokuriku Line, Bus
Chusha: Bus Togakushi line (via Birdline) from bus stop no.7 (in front of Nagano Station) to Togakushi-Chusha
Okusha: Bus Togakushi line (via Birdline) to Togakushi-Okusha
*In the winter during ski season, the bus will not stop at Togakushi-Okusha