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Odawara Castle is one of the most underrated places to visit in Kanagawa, south of Tokyo. A visit to this castle will be very exciting both for history buffs and photography lovers! We introduce the features and highlights of this castle along with access information.
Castles are major sightseeing destinations all throughout Japan, as exemplified by Osaka Castle or Himeji Castle in Hyogo.
When thinking of the area south of Tokyo, Yokohama may be the top destination that comes to mind. Odawara Castle, located on the western edge of Kanagawa Prefecture, is not as well-known. Even our writer, a photographer born and bred in Kanagawa, had never seen the castle in person.
This article featuring Odawara Castle resulted from a stopover in the area. This unexpected visit documented below was well worth the time.
Reportedly built in the mid-15th century, the castle functioned as the base of the powerful Hojo clan. Although later abandoned during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), it was rebuilt in 1934 and completed in 2009.
The main feature is the castle tower, which was renovated in 2016. The grounds have been turned into Odawara Castle Ruins Park, frequently visited by locals.
Odawara can be reached by the limited express Romancecar departing from Shinjuku Station. It is a 45-minute train ride from Tokyo and a ten-minute walk to the castle from the station. Otherwise, you can reach Odawara in about 40 minutes by Shinkansen, or an hour and a half by car from Tokyo Station.
For further information, please check the official website: https://odawaracastle.com/
The route to the castle tower starts at the main entrance of Odawara Castle Ruins Park.
A few castle remains can be found in the spacious park. The mud wall model of the Akagane Gate is one of these displays. Many visitors stop by to get a glimpse of the construction methods dating back centuries.
There was something romantic about this display. Moreover, the unique exhibits at Odawara Castle aren't likely found at other famous castles.
You will come across other facilities along the route, such as the Ninja-kan, a ninja-themed museum!
The Samurai museum displaying various armors and weapons is also found here. However, let's stick to the original route and head for the Tokiwagi Gate pictured above.
The open space of the Honmaru (inner citadel) lies beyond the Tokiwagi Gate, where the writer spotted some caged monkeys.
This is a remnant of a zoo that was built on the former castle grounds in 1950. This marked the rebuilding years in Japan following WWII. The facility was downsized after the number of visitors declined.
A sense of sadness is felt when envisioning children having fun at the zoo during its heyday.
Now, it's time to head to the castle tower!
This facility was fully renovated in 2016. Visitors can admire the pristine, modern design.
There are displays showcasing the rich history of the castle on every floor from the middle ages until the Meiji Period (1868-1912) when the castle was abandoned.
The observation deck on the fifth floor, located 60 meters above sea level, awaits visitors with a sprawling view. Likewise, the photogenic ocean and mountains make a stunning photograph.
Gazing out at the ocean view with the neighboring Izu area will make you want to stretch out your arms.
A stylish cafe that opened in 2015 adds to the park's ambiance. You can grab a beverage while enjoying a stroll around the grounds.
The half-day excursion was the perfect amount of exercise after spending time at home during the pandemic.
Why not spread your wings and explore Odawara Castle on a day trip from Tokyo?
Photo by Karin