Many people come to Japan for a holiday, and most plan to travel all across the country exploring all of the famous cities and landmarks that Japan boasts. Of course, all of these great cities and locations each have their very own story and history to tell. Perhaps one of the most popular locations to explore and experience is the capital city, Tokyo. Of course, when visiting a country its capital city is normally high on the agenda to see.
Japan has a unique history and culture, one that truly sets it apart from many other locations around the world. I am of course talking about the rich and fascinating history and culture of Japan’s Samurai and Ninja. So where better to see this Samurai lifestyle up close and personal than one of the most amazing and vibrant cities in the world.
Welcome to Tokyo!
Starting with the Edo-Tokyo Museum which is a great place to visit for the whole family. A museum can not only give a full story of what happened during a historical event but also why the event happened and the effects that would be carried forward. The Edo-Tokyo Museum is a perfect example of this complete storytelling. Whereas many of the castles, temples, and houses will focus mainly on what makes that particular location special. The Edo-Tokyo Museum goes much further and gives you a doorway into Japan’s history by telling you everything about Edo. Edo is the old name for Tokyo.
At the Edo-Tokyo Museum, they have incredible scale models, as well as many genuine artifacts showing how Tokyo, previously named Edo, actually looked. Using the artifacts and sized models helps the storytelling, and really brings the context of the events and history into an easy to understand and remember the experience. They use a huge collection of scaled and full-size models, exhibits, and artifacts collected from throughout the ages of Tokyo/Edo. There is also so much information, stories, and history of this incredible city and beyond on display at the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
KYOTO SAMURAI AND NINJA EXPERIENCE MUSEUM
The Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience is a great museum tucked into a perfectly convenient location in the Kawaramachi shopping district. This museum is broken into three floors that offer the full experience of learning the history, culture, and even experiencing the Samurai and Ninja.
The first floor is the store where you can buy great souvenirs including your very own Samurai Katana. You also buy the tickets directly from this counter as well. The second floor is dedicated to the displays of the many, many artifacts as well as the huge amount of information. Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience Museum have been designed to give huge amounts of information in a way that is easy to understand for all ages.
The final floor is probably the most popular, especially for the kids. It is here on this floor where the real fun action is. On this floor, you can have a go at using the famous Ninja star (Shuriken) and blowgun (Fukiya) of the Ninja as well as dressing up in Samurai armor costumes. This experience brings all the fun of learning and experiencing all together.
The Kyoto Samurai and Ninja experience is home to a great many exhibits from all across Japan’s history. Everything from the armor and weapons of the Samurai to many of the objects and tools that would have been commonplace in Japan’s medieval eras. The exhibits and information cover all aspects of the Samurai and Ninja Lifestyle.
Whilst going through the tour of the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience Museum you get to learn about everything, from the Samurai’s ways of life, right the way through to the secrets items, weapons, and tools of the Ninja. The museum prides itself on having many genuine articles and artifacts on display for everyone to see and appreciate. Whether you are a practitioner of the arts, a history buff, or just a passing interest, it is truly inspirational to see the majestic items in such detail.
The Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience Museum has a large collection of different types of armor from many ages of Japan. A large selection of the armors is from Japan’s Edo period, over three hundred years old! The Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience Museum is one of the few museums where you are able to get up close and personal to see these artifacts. Many other museums have everything behind glass and are too far away to really appreciate it properly. At the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience Museum, there are no such boundaries.
Perhaps one of the most impressive displays of the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience Museum is their huge wall of swords. This display has a wide range of different styles of Japanese swords used throughout the ages of Japan. Many of these weapons also have fascinating stories of local and famous Samurai. This display is a favorite of the many collectors of Japanese swords and practitioners of Japanese martial arts, and for those who are in the market to buy a sword may have some luck here too.
The exhibits in the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience Museum are unique in their display and their collection covering all of Japanese history. So no matter your interests, be it Ninja, Samurai, history, or culture, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The museum has such a collection on display it is sure to please all who visit.
The Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience
Address: 寺町詩の小路 2F, 292 Higashidaimonjicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8043, Japan (map)
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11AM–6PM
NIKKO EDO MURA
Located in the town of Nikko, in Tochigi prefecture just a little to the north of Tokyo. Nikko Edomura is an absolute must for a great day out. The entire attraction is a faithful recreation of a Japanese Edo Period (1615-1845) town. Nikko Edomura is home to many interesting shops, restaurants, and attractions. The site is designed for visitors to have the most fun experiencing and learning about the culture and history of Edo period Japan. The site is also often used for many of the Samurai movies and TV dramas, so you may even bump into a celebrity!
There is plenty of parking available on-site for those who will be driving themselves. But, as Japan’s public transport is world-renowned why not relax on your trip out. At Niko Edo Mura there are many taxi and bus services that can drop you right outside the front door. This makes getting to Nikko Edomura as easy as possible, especially for those who may be traveling in large groups or with children.
If you really want to experience the Edo lifestyle, there are many, many amusements and experience centers available so you can try out everything from making tea to playing musical instruments all the way through to learning many of the skills of the Samurai and Ninja. There are many Dojo (Learning halls) for learning skills with the famous Samurai’s sword, or the Ninja’s Shuriken (Ninja Star). It is here that Nikko Edomura really shines. The available activities are sure to keep kids of all ages, and us adults too, happy and excited for learning about the Ninja, Samurai as well as the rich and fascinating history of Japan.
NIKKO EDO MURA
Address: 470-2 Karakura, Nikko, Tochigi 321-2524, Japan (map)
Hours: Monday, Tuesday 9AM–5PM; Thursday – Sunday 9AM–5PM; Wednesday closed
SAMURAI MUSEUM SHINJUKU
Continuing with the theme of museums, this little treasure is nestled in the heart of Shinjuku. The Samurai Museum Shinjuku can be inspirational even for those with only a passing interest in the history and culture of the Samurai. Samurai Museum Shinjuku covers more than seven hundred years of Japan’s legendary history. So for those who have done a lot of exploring around the historic sites of Japan, the information and stories at the Samurai Museum Shinjuku will neatly bring all your holiday locations together in one complete experience.
At the Samurai Museum Shinjuku, they make great use of their space, being able to fit in many, many artifacts, displays, and information. The entire museum covers two floors of their building to tell the fascinating stories of the Samurai and rulers of Japan’s past. As you probably expect, your adventure experience begins on the first floor. Passing through the main entrance you are greeted at the front desk, this is where you can buy tickets for entry.
This museum not only brings together much of the famous characters and history together from Japan’s incredible past but also helps to literally put you in the shoes of the Samurai. Especially with a well-stocked souvenir store as well. The Samurai Museum Shinjuku is the perfect place to spend an hour or so learning and enjoying a great experience together.
SAMURAI MUSEUM SHINJUKU
Address: Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukicho, 2 Chome−25−6 1F・2F 永和ビル 6 (map)
Hours: Temporarily closed
CEMETERY OF THE 47 RONIN
There are few who have looked into the history of the Samurai and have not heard of this true story of honor, bravery, and revenge. Perhaps one of the most famous stories from Japan’s Edo period (1615-1845). The story of the 47 Ronin has resonated throughout Japanese history and lore for hundreds of years. In Japan, the story is referred to as Chusingura and has been made into Kabuki theater and Japanese cinema. the story has even received “The Hollywood treatment”…But the less said about that the better.
Once you are finished inside the temple and the graves, there is also a small memorial museum located at the temple which can give much more information about the event of the 47 Ronin and tells the real story there. This museum gives great detail explaining the history of those who were involved in this fascinating episode of Japanese history. There are also many restaurants in the local area, so once you have worked up a hunger exploring and learning about the 47 Ronin, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to food. Everything from Japanese curry to Ramen and even a French-themed restaurant, all only a short walk from the temple. A perfect way to finish the day.
CEMETERY OF THE 47 RONIN
Address: 2 Chome-11-1 Takanawa, Minato City, Tokyo 108-0074, Japan (map)
Hours: Open 24 hours
NOMURA CLAN SAMURAI HOUSE – KANAZAWA
The Nomura Samurai House and Garden is a beautiful area just outside of Kanazawa castle, a place well worth visiting too. The city of Kanazawa is located a short Shinkansen (Bullet train ride) away to the North West of Tokyo, in Ishikawa prefecture. The city of Kanazawa is a beautiful and historic city, and right in the heart of the city lies Kanazawa castle. Although the castle itself is highly recommended there is an experience nearby that is absolutely unmissable for those who are truly wanting to experience the way and life of Japan’s old Samurai.
For the true Japanese experience, you can also go to the upstairs tea room. This is the room where generations of high ranking Nomura Samurai and their guests have sat, enjoyed tea, and looked out over the beautiful gardens whilst feeling the gentle breeze. Now, you can enjoy this experience as well. This entire experience is fascinating and of great value, as well as being near enough next door to Kanazawa Castle. This makes the Nomura Samurai house an absolute must for anyone passing through the city of Kanazawa.
NOMURA CLAN SAMURAI HOUSE - KANAZAWA
Address: 1 Chome-3-32 Nagamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0865, Japan (map)
Hours: Monday – Sunday 8:30AM–4:30PM
KAKUNODATE DISTRICT AKITA
Located in Northern Japan in Akita prefecture, is the beautiful and ancient town of Kakunodate. The town of Kakunodate was merged with the village of Nishiki and the town of Tazawako into one city, now named Semboku. Once in the area of Kakunodate it is easy to see why it is often lovingly referred to as “The Little Kyoto of Tohoku”. The town of Kakunodate is filled with ancient, well preserved, Samurai houses and other historic locations.
Most famous in the town of Kakunodate are the Buke Yashiki or Samurai houses. This is an entire district of old Samurai homes which have been maintained and restored. This makes them a great way to get a glimpse into the past and to be enjoyed in all their original glory. For the Samurai enthusiast, it is a great learning experience to explore each of the houses and learn from all of the information available on display. There are also great little shops in some of the houses so you can pick up that perfect souvenir to bring home.
Kakunodate also has one of the largest number of Sakura (Cherry trees) in Japan, so is a popular location for “Hanami” literally translated as “flower viewing”. Many people from all over Japan and across the world travel to Kakunodate just to see the incredible display of the blossoming Sakura trees. In fact, the Sakura cherry blossom trees in the town of Kakunodate are said to be of such high quality that they are the reason why Hanami became so popular and famous for Kaba Zaiku, as mentioned above.
KAKUNODATE DISTRICT AKITA
CHIRAN SAMURAI RESIDENCE KAGOSHIMA
The beautiful and enchanting Chiran Samurai Residence is located at the very farthest southern island of Japan, Kyushu. The island of Kyushu boasts many famous locations for Samurai’s history and culture, but none quite as beautiful as the Chiran Samurai Residence.
As you explore through the residences you will meet the many staff who look after the facilities, houses, and gardens. Each staff member is able to give great stories and facts about the houses and garden explaining all from the decorations to the daily life of a Samurai. The service they provide is truly fantastic and does often work alongside many tour groups able to give a great experience for those visiting. there is even a great restaurant on location, perfect for relaxing for a while after all that exploring.
CHIRAN SAMURAI RESIDENCE KAGOSHIMA
Address: Chiran, Minamikyūshū, Kagoshima 897-0302, Japan (map)
Hours: Open 24 hours
If you only get time to visit one castle during your trip to Japan, then nothing can rank higher than Himeji Castle. Himeji is one of the most famous and popular castles in the whole of Japan, and for very good reason. Himeji Castle is one of the largest ever constructed in Japan, the castle also has a fascinating history. So for those who are looking to see the places where the Samurai life and action really happened, then Himeji Castle is the place to be.
Himeji Castle was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1993. Sadly many of Japan’s castles have been destroyed over the years to make room for new and modern expansion. Much history has been lost in this way. Himeji stands as a symbol of Japan’s great history, representing a true image of how many of Japan’s castles used to look. There are also regular exhibitions and events held at the castle.
For those looking for great shopping experiences or even just for a fun souvenir, there is a shopping street that is en route to Himeji Castle from the train station. This area not only has shopping to suit the taste of any visitor, but there are also many restaurants to enjoy when looking for time to relax and refuel after a busy day of Samurai adventures.
Address: 68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyogo 670-0012, Japan (map)
Hours: Monday – Sunday 9AM–4PM
BIZEN OSAFUNE SWORD MUSEUM OKAYAMA
For those who are looking to enjoy a view at a huge collection of the most famous possession of the Samurai the famous Katana. In Osafune City of the Okayama prefecture, there is the perfect museum for those looking to see and learn everything about this incredible weapon and work of art. You can see everything from a huge collection of the swords, through how the weapons were used all the way to how they were made. Everything about the life and times of these famous blades can be experienced right here.
The city of Osafune was one of the most famous producers of high-quality swords for the Samurai during the days of Japan’s warring periods. Many of the swords created in this city were owned by high ranking and highly skilled Samurai. This game continues to live on today within the incredible collection housed at the Bizen Osafune Sword Museum.
Many of the swords that are made on-site are also on sale at the store, a perfect time for the practicing Samurai visitor to get their own genuine sword. Due to Japanese law, these blades often require posting home, rather than allowing customers to simply walk out of the store carrying a deadly weapon.
BIZEN OSAFUNE SWORD MUSEUM OKAYAMA
Address: Japan, 〒701-4271 Okayama, Setouchi, 長船 瀬戸内 966番地 (map)
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 9AM–5PM
KUMANO KODO MOUNTAIN HIKE
The historic Kumano Kodo mountain hike has been a route used by the Japanese for over one thousand years. Many people from all backgrounds in society, from the lowest peasant all the way to the Emperor’s themselves have walked this incredible pathway. Today this route is still open for all to enjoy all the way across the incredibly beautiful Kii peninsula.
The network of routes that cross the Kii peninsula became known as the Kumano Kodo. Today the Kumano Kodo remains a very popular route for people to be able to explore Japan’s incredible history, culture, and design. These routes take you from city to city, through beautiful forests and over-powerful mountains, this is truly an all-encompassing and life-changing experience for all who try it.
Originally this walk was an integral pilgrimage of the strict religious rites of purification and worship. Back in 2004, the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage routes were recognized as UNESCO world heritage as a part of the “Sacred sites and pilgrimage routes”. This is an incredible experience for anyone who enjoys a good walk with fantastic spiritual scenery to really reinvigorate the soul.
All along the route, there are plenty of hotels, shops, and restaurants to help you be able to relax and keep your strength up for the whole journey. When passing through the smaller towns we recommend trying some of the local dishes in family-run restaurants. This is a great way to experience real Japanese Culture and cuisine whilst supporting their local businesses.
WEAR SAMURAI ARMOUR OR SAMURAI HAKAMA (KIMONO)
It is hard to think of the Samurai without picturing their iconic clothing and armor. The fashion of the Samurai is an absolutely iconic image of the immortalized warrior class. Today, you have the chance to join the illustrious ranks of the Samurai by wearing their armor and clothing at the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum Experience.
Above and beyond their regular tickets (Described above) the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum Experience offers an extra experience ticket that is sure to delight every Samurai lover out there. This special ticket allows you to try on genuine Samurai armor! The expert Samurai guides of the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum Experience will show you how to wear this legendary armor of the samurai. The guides will also explain each of the parts, how they work, what they do, and why. There is a lot to learn about the Samurai and their armor.
Along with this special ticket you can also enjoy all the other activities on offer from the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Experience Museum. The history tour is always guaranteed to be a hit. Using many great stories and facts, one of the Samurai or Ninja guides will take you through the incredible history of Japan. The tour will take you all the way from the start of the Samurai through to the modern-day. After the tour begins your Ninja training. One of our guides will show the secret Ninja techniques of the Ninja Star (Shuriken) and the Ninja Blowgun (Fukiya).
SWORD MAKING IN KYOTO
It was said that the sword was the soul of the Samurai, it was their most important possession and became the most famous symbol of the Samurai. So if you want to really want to become a modern Samurai, then, of course, you need your own sword. This is where our information can help.
Going back once again to the beautiful city of Kyoto, we find the home of the sword making experience. By taking part in this experience you get to make a Samurai blade of your very own. The Kyoto Sword Making Experience will have a master craftsman show you how to forge your very own Kogatana.
Your new sword making master is a swordsmith who has had their skills passed down to them from many generations of the past. He will teach to you the same methods and materials as were used to make the famous Katana of the Samurai. So your new sword will be made with the same materials and methods as the ancient swords of the Samurai but will of course have the personal touch as you will be making it yourself, under the guidance of the master. you can marvel at the display of the many swords the master has made over the years.
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