Naruto’s Playground?: A Ninja Obstacle Course in Akita

How many of us haven’t dreamed of becoming a ninja? I, like many others sometimes felt Akita Prefecture in Northern Tohoku is nothing special. At times it seems the rice fields outnumber the population of the towns I walk through. But, for those in the know and have a warrior’s passion, there is one place to hone your skills, if you know the secret.


Located a 10 minute drive, 40 minute walk or 20 minute ninja jog away from Akita International University is the inconspicuously named Athletic Field. But the sign can hardly fool a soul as in the immediate background lies a massive tower of nets, monkey bars, ropes, stairs, and ramps. If this is an ‘athletic field’ it must be for only the toughest of athletes.

Pass the family of cats that live in the abandoned electric transfer station along the main road, or take a trip through the bear-infested woods to find a ninja camp even few students at the nearby university don’t know about. For a few yen coins, you can run around to your heart’s content throughout countless number of obstacles and challenges. There are set courses and multiple paths of difficulty to test your balance, strength, speed, courage, determination, and will power. And forget about American safety standards. This place is aging and several obstacles were closed for repairs. Other times I found myself hanging from ropes 10 feet off the ground and my strength almost giving out. If I dropped, there was nothing to catch my but the hard earth.  But risking your life is only part of the fun!

Words can’t describe how awesome this place is. I almost lost my balance on a swinging wooden bridge crossing a gorge, snaked through nets, used ropes to swing across a pit to kick some hanging logs, and sped down a zip line for the big finale. The massive tower you see in one of the pictures is a beast! Naturally, it is the last obstacle after a day of sweat and torture, but also a day with a lot of smiles. Climbing to the top, you really feel you conquered the world. Yes, that day I was a ninja.

What’s your ninja story?


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