Kanazawa’s Tera-machi (Temple District) is home to one of the most interesting temples in Japan. Constructed in 1585, Myoryuji, otherwise known as Ninja-dera (Ninja Temple), is an intricate structure with hidden rooms, secret passageways, concealed staircases, false doors and other unusual features which have earned it the name, Ninja-dera. There are 23 rooms and 29 staircases to be exact.
The temple was originally situated near Kanazawa Castle but in 1643, it was relocated to Tera-machi just south of the castle. The temple was constructed in this matter in an effort to circumvent the strict building restrictions imposed by the shogun and served as a disguised military outpost. In essence, Myoryuji has nothing to do with ninjas at all but its design is aimed to guard against intruders or an attack.
During the Edo period, the Tokugawa Shogunate prohibited the construction of buildings higher than three stories. When viewed from the outside, the temple appears to be a two-story structure, however it is actually a four-story building with a seven-layer internal structure. The temple is accessed through an unusual triangular entranceway. A small lookout room on top of the temple, which provides a view across the Kaga plain was used to detect approaching armies.
There is a secondary entrance to the temple, which can be accessed by a short set of shoji lined steps. The semi-translucent paper steps allowed defenders inside the temple to see the shadows of invaders’ feet on the steps. From that point they were able to attack the invaders from inside by poking spears up through the stairs. That same entrance features a trick sliding door and a secret passageway. From inside, if one slides the door open in one direction, it leads outside, but, if the door is slid open in the other direction, it reveals a hidden staircase to a secret room. As long as the door to the outside is open (such as when invaders are letting themselves in), the door to that staircase is blocked and hidden.
Today, visitors to the temple can tour the grounds by guided tour. A reservation is highly recommended but you can still experience a guided tour if you do not have a reservation. Simply provide your name and you will be given a tour time, unless of course the temple is vastly crowded with visitors that day. Tours are conducted every 30 minutes between the hours of 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM.
Web page: http://myouryuji.or.jp/en.html
Address: 1-2-12 Nomachi, Kanazawa 921-8031, Ishikawa Prefecture