Japanese Castles: Odawara Castle 小田原城
Odawara Castle in Odawara city in Kanagawa Prefecture, 84km west of Tokyo on the old Tokaido highway is a symbol of the city, though the present Odawara Castle is a modern, concrete reconstruction dating from the 1960's.
History of Odawara Castle
Odawara Castle has a long history and a fortress has stood on or near this strategic site since the late 15th century, when the surrounding area was controlled by the Hojo clan.
The Hojo repelled attacks on Odawara Castle led by Uesugi Kenshin in 1561 and Takeda Shingen in 1569.
Following the completion of Ieyasu's own Edo Castle in preset-day Tokyo, Ieyasu passed control of Odawara to his retainer, Okubo Tadayo, who rebuilt the castle on a smaller scale than the original that had been attacked by Hideyoshi.
The Okubo clan were still in control of the Odawara domain at the end of the Edo Period in 1867. Thereafter, the new, reforming Meiji government ordered the destruction of domain castles and Odawara Castle was largely demolished except for its stone walls and moats.
Restorations to Odawara Castle began in the 1930's and in 1960 the concrete replica castle we see today was built, with further work carried out on the site from the 1970's onwards, including construction of the Tokiwagi Gate (常磐木門) in 1971, the Akagane Gate (銅門) in 1997, and the Umade Gate (馬出門), as recently as 2009.
The interior of Odawara Castle contains an excellent museum with samurai suits of armor, swords, firearms, scrolls, castle models and historical documents all on display.
The viewing gallery of the castle was not present in the historical original but it does present fine views over Odawara and as far as Sagami Bay and the Boso Peninsula on clear days.
Within the extensive Odawara Castle Park is the Odawara Castle History Museum (admission 300 yen or a joint ticket for the museum and castle is 600 yen), which presents the history of Odawara as a Tokaido post town and the history of the Hojo clan.
Also within Odawara Castle Park is the Odawara City Library, the Odawara Local Culture Museum, the Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine (dedicated to the locally-born, Edo period agronomist Sontoku Ninomiya 1787-1856), the Hotoku Museum, an amusement park and toy train for kids and a memorial to an aged elephant, Umeko, that was kept in less than ideal conditions, it must be said, within the park until it died in 2009.
Odawara Castle grounds are a well-known place now for cherry-blossom viewing (hanami) in spring and the castle park also contains plum trees, which blossom in late February and early March, azaleas and wisteria.
Odawara Castle is an approximately 10 minute walk south of Odawara Station, out of the East Exit. Odawara can be reached in 35 minutes by Kodama shinkansen from Tokyo Station. A Limited Express Odoriko takes one hour. A normal Tokaido Line train takes about 90 minutes.
The Business Hotel Ise is close to both Odawara Station and castle.
Jonai 6-1, Odawara
Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0014
Tel: 465 23 1373
Admission 400 yen for adults.
Special thanks to Ms. Julie Skarstrom for her images of Odawara