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Visitors test their ninja skills at new Odawara museum

Visitors can try hopping ninja-like over the water at the Rekishi Kenbun Museum in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. (Mainichi/Haruo Sawa)

ODAWARA, Kanagawa -- A history museum here will transform itself into a ninja museum on April 20, opening its doors to tourists from Japan and abroad looking to experience the ways of the ninja, the famed spies of feudal Japan.

Located at Odawara Castle Park, the Rekishi Kenbun (Observation) Museum has been reinvented as the Ninja Museum, complete with features such as a trick-filled mansion where visitors can try sneaking along the corridor and opening secret doors. Patrons can also mimic ninja intrusion techniques by scaling a bouldering wall and using ropes.

Staff members in ninja outfits welcome visitors to the Rekishi Kenbun Museum in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. (Mainichi/Haruo Sawa)

The museum was inaugurated in April 1998 to introduce Odawara Castle, from the Sengoku warring states period through the Edo period (1603-1868). The museum is housed in what was once the auditorium of the now-defunct Jonai Elementary School, built in 1929.

The museum has been reinforced against earthquakes and now features the Fuma ninja group, who are said to have served the Hojo clan that ruled the region during the Sengoku period in the 15th to 16th centuries.

The existence of the Fuma ninja remains a mystery, with only six extant sets of documents from the Sengoku period that refer to two figures likely named Kazama and Kazama Dewanokami. The ninja were apparently deployed at the front lines and were engaged in special military operations. Those activities are said to have spawned the legendary ninja Fuma Kotaro during the Edo period.

The new Ninja Museum is designed to tell a story: The Fuma ninja must use their techniques to defend Odawara Castle from the troops of 16th century warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Visitors to the museum can first experience what Odawara was like during the period in the Sengoku theater zone, and then advance to the Ninja experience zone after learning about the history of the Hojo clan. There is also a virtual warfare zone, where visitors can fight against enemy ninja.

Admission to the museum is 300 yen for adults and 100 yen for elementary and junior high school students. A special lecture featuring ninja from various regions will also be held at Odawara civic hall from 1:30 p.m. on April 20.

For more inquiries, please call Odawara Castle Tower at 0465-22-3818 (in Japanese).

(Japanese original by Haruo Sawa, Odawara Local Bureau)

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