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Myoryuji Temple (Ninja Temple) 妙立寺(忍者寺)

Military outpost disguised as a temple with trap doors and hidden rooms

Myoryuji Temple in Kanazawa is full of trap doors, hidden rooms, secret passageways, and maze-like stairwells. These features have earned it the nickname “Ninja Temple,” although the building has no connection to ninja at all.

Myoryuji was founded as a secret armed outpost in 1643 to circumvent a shogunate rule ban on defensive military structures. The Maeda family, rulers of the Kaga domain (present-day Ishikawa and its surroundings), constructed a line of temples on the northern and southern edge of the city to protect Kanazawa Castle from attack. Buildings over three stories were also banned by the shogunate, so Myoryuji was constructed to look like a two-story building from the exterior. However, it is actually four floors tall and contains a concealed watchtower. Even the temple’s donation box conceals a trap door and, according to legend, a tunnel connects Myoryuji’s well with the castle.

Myoryuji Temple can only be visited through a guided tour. Advance reservations are required. (Tours are in Japanese, but English information is provided).

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