Photo By: © Kanazawa City/© JNTO
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kanazawa
Population
1,180,935

Myoryu-ji Temple (Ninjadera)

With a nickname like “Ninja Temple,” it’s gotta be good.

In a lot of Ishikawa Prefecture’s promotional material, you will often find Myoryu-ji temple incorrectly referred to as “Ninja-dera” (the ninja temple). In fact, the fascinating temple has no connections with the shadowy assassins of lore. However, on seeing the number of secret rooms, booby traps and hidden rooms that are on the site, it is easy to understand the mistake. It is, in fact, a location that the secretive warriors would have likely approved of.

Photo by: Kentaro Ohno Tours of the temple are available and cost ¥1,000.

Even entering the front hall used to be a risk as there is a concealed pitfall designed to catch any attackers rushing onto the premises. After that, would-be invaders would have to navigate the concealed stairs and their removable bottom step and another staircase with see-through paper risers that allowed waiting defenders to see the ankles of their hapless victims and ambush them with spears.

To understand the need for all of these malevolent traps, it is worth considering the time the temple was built. In those days, Ishikawa was under the auspices of the Tokugawa Shogunate who lived in constant fear of attack. In order to make sure their power could be maintained with the absolute minimum of violence, the shogun introduced strict rules against the number of floors and the types of defenses that could be built.

Photo by: buck82 A secret garden.

In the case of the Ishikawa-based Maeda clan who built Myoryu-ji, the Shogunate was right to be afraid as the increasingly powerful family decided to circumvent the rules and instead designed Myoryuiji as a means of defense against a surprise attack. Everything about it was designed to keep someone alive or help them escape. As well as the traps and pitfalls this included 2 hidden floors that can only be accessed from inside and maze-like corridors designed to baffle intruders.

Everything about it was designed to keep someone alive or help them escape.

Perhaps appropriately for a temple that is so difficult to navigate, these days even getting into it is difficult. Entering the temple is only possible 2 times every hour and only as part of a tour group. During the peak season, visitors are recommended to book 2-3 months before their date of travel to guarantee a spot.

To further complicate things at the time of writing, the tour is held in Japanese only. Yep, even to this day the temple is full of tricks to outfox the unwary even though those traps are more likely to be cultural than cruel these days.

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Things To Know

Hours

9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. During the winter, open until 4 p.m.

Tours

If you want to make a reservation, call 076-241-0888. The entrance fee for the tour is ¥1,000. For more information, see the reservation page: http://www.myouryuji.or.jp/en.html

How To Get There

Address

1 Chome-2-8 Nomachi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken 921-8031, Japan

By train

Take the Hokuriku-Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kanazawa station.

By bus

From Kanazawa station, take bus No. 20, 21, 22, 30, 31, 41, 42, 44, 45, to Hirokoji (広小路) bus stop. The temple is about a 5-minute walk from Hirokoji bus stop. (Buses run about every 20 mins.)

Where To Stay

Ninja Tabi-Ne
  • Nomachi 1-2-1 Kanazawa-Shi, Ishikawa 921-8031
  • 8.8/10
  • 0.1 km
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Saik
  • Nomachi 2-3-10 Kanazawa-Shi, Ishikawa 921-8031
  • 9/10
  • 0.2 km
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Riverside Tabi-Ne
  • Teramachi 5-1-36 Kanazawa-Shi, Ishikawa 921-8033
  • 8.6/10
  • 0.2 km
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  • 〒921-8031 IshikawaKanazawa-Shi
  • 0.2 km
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