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Nonou Graveyard : ののう巫女の墓

The Final Resting Ground of the Lady Ninjas

Eastern Nagano


In the age-old Netsu district in Tomi City is a handful of unique graveyards. A sign states that the graves are of “Nonou Miko” with the explanation that these Miko shrine maidens were a type known as Nonou. Miko shrine maidens today typically work for a particular Shinto shrine, assisting the priest and performing ceremonial dances. But during the Edo period and before, the Nonou Miko were shamans that traveled around Japan. They would stop at villages to listen to the concerns of the locals and summon a “kami” god -- a sort of spirit medium. They would set out every spring and return in the fall, sometimes bringing with them young girls they recruited to be new Nonou.

What the sign doesn’t mention is another facet of the Nonou – spies. During the Edo period, people were not allowed to travel freely from one province to another. There were only a few exceptions, one of which was the “Walking-Miko”, or Nonou. In moving throughout Japan, they were able to gather information from far and wide and so could spy on other domains. Hence their role as “Kunoichi” – lady ninjas.
Why so many Nonou graves are located in these cemetaries in Netsu remains a mystery, but one possible reason is there was a Kunoichi Mother here, a lady who took in young ladies who for whatever reason had left their homes. We can only imagine what difficulties the Nonou had at home, and the kindness of the matron here that nurtured them and trained them to be spiritual healers – and secret spies.


Access / Location

By Train
From Tanaka Station(Shinano Railway), 3.2 km (8 minutes by taxi).
The most clearly marked Nonou graveyard is across the street from Netsu Elementary School.
By Car
From Tobu-Yunomaru IC, 500 meters
Netsu, Tomi 389-0506

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