Having shuffled through the formal reception area of Iwakuni Castle in a line of Japanese and American tourists, we finally reached a room filled with glass display cabinets. I waited until there was a gap in the crowd and then worked my way to the front. On the stark white backboard hung a vicious looking weapon. It was black with a sickle-like blade and a heavy chain attached. The card read ‘Kusarigama – 1467’. I stared at the kusarigama, trying to imagine the damage that such a thing could inflict in trained hands. Gradually I became aware of a man to my left. He was small, his silver hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. His moonlike face was smooth even though he must have been at least 80 years old. He too was staring at the weapon.
‘It’s a impressive looking object,’ I said although I wasn’t sure that he would speak English.
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘It belonged to my great great grandfather. He was Shinobi like his father before him.’
‘A ninja? Really?’ I was fascinated and about to ask more but our tour guide was shouting to reassemble us. When I turned back the man was gone.