Think of a Japanese castle which has featured in a couple of movies and the majority of people will no doubt say Himeji-jo in Hyōgo Prefecture. However, there is another one and that is Hikone-jo in Shiga Prefecture. It was used in ‘The Hunted‘ (1995) but a couple of years before that it also appeared in this kids adventure movie where a trio of young martial artists face their grandfather’s enemies when they follow him to Japan to deliver a priceless dagger.
The fun part of movie location hunting for me is getting out there and tracking down the places used and trying to replicate the same angle as accuarately as possible. That all takes time and money though but thankfully one can actually do this hobby from home via maps apps, and that is exactly how I found these shots of Nagoya City which are seen on 35 minutes.
The end credits of this sequel to ‘3 Ninjas‘ (1992) reveals that this film was shot on location in Nagoya, Hikone and Kanazawa. I have no idea which scenes took place in the latter so maybe that is where the martial arts tournament was held. If you have any idea where this temple (below) is then please let me know in the comments.
As mentioned at the top of this post, it’s Hikone on the east coast of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture which is the main filming location for this 93 minute movie. Hikone castle, one of only five listed as National Treasures in Japan, is the star attraction of the small city as it stands tall in the distance surrounded by lush green vegetation and looming over the teahouses and green lawns of the fairly spacious Genkyu-en beneath. The castle makes a brief appearance (below) on 46 minutes, and again later in the film. For some reason, I never did take a close-up shot of the castle from the gardens.
It is these gardens which provide the majority of the on-location footage. Genkyu-en is included in the 800 yen castle ticket (the garden can be entered on its own for 200 yen), and is a beautiful landscaped Japanese garden which really helps propel the castle up the rankings in my mind. The grassy lawns feature in a musical montage where the three titular ninja brothers of the story (Rocky, Colt and Tum-Tum) train Miyo in catching a baseball in return for her teaching them martial arts.
This curved wooden bridge (below) leads to one of the teahouses and appears a few times during the same montage.
Despite all the previous footage being filmed in Aichi or Shiga Prefectures, there is then a shot of Umeda Sky Building in Osaka on 50 minutes which is supposedly based on Machu Pichu in Peru though I’m clueless as to the link between the two! This building was a product of the bubble-era and was completed in 1993.
Back to Hikone-jo Castle which finally takes main stage after 70 minutes as a chase ensues. This Edo-Period castle is approximately 15 minutes on foot from Hikone Station on the JR West Biwako Line and is considered to be the most significant historical building in Shiga-ken. Due to constrcution work it wasn’t possible to explore the castle enough to find the exact shots below assuming they were even shot at Hikone-jo!
There’s a final shot from behind the castle after about 70 minutes.
This film is definitely of it’s time regarding some of the so-called humour. Unbelievably there were two more films after this one in the franchise. Unless you grew up with them then they really are not worth seeking out. However, I’m glad I am a completist (or try to be!) when it comes to films set in Japan as seeking this one out did introduce me to a beautiful part of Japan which I probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise.
Click here to read ‘The Japanese Castle Which Can Rival Himeji-jo For Appearing In Movies’
Click here to read ‘Kansai Filming Locations: 3 Ninjas Kick Back (1994)’
Click here to read ‘Hikone Filming Locations: The Hunted (1995)’
Click here to read ‘Nagoya Filming Locations – The Hunted (1995)’
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I am currently in Japan and as the 3 ninjas movies were My favorite growing up, I have been thinking of seeking these places out. I think I just added Hikone as a day trip from Kyoto to my itinerary. This article was exactly what I was searching for. Thanks for the tips!!
That is brilliant Steph. Have a great trip and I hope Hikone castle (and the garden beneath it) meets your expectations and gives you the nostalgic feel you’re presumably after. Thanks for your comment. Lovely to hear your story.