Japanese Castle 🏯 Stop by Odawara Castle on Your Way to Hakone

Kanto Culture 2018.04.25
Odawara Castle (小田原城), a Beautiful Place to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Japanese Castle on the Way to Hakkone

Odawara Castle (小田原城) was a castle originally built in the mid 15th century for the famous Omori family. It is, however, more famous for being the residence for the Odawara Hojo Clan, which was one of the most powerful clans at the time. They used Odawara Castle as a base to control the region around modern-day Tokyo. 
After lots of history and events of being demolished and rebuilt, the castle tower has been restored due to the towns people's love and loyalty. Now it's becoming a popular spot for tourists to stop by on their way to Hakone and a great place to see large areas of cherry blossoms, hydrangea, plum blossoms, Japanese wisteria and more!!✿❀✿

🍶A Perfect Place to Have Picnics and Check out Japanese Flowers🌸 

  • Japanese imperial palace sake(・∀・)b!!
    Japanese imperial palace sake(・∀・)b!!

We've been wanting to go to Odawara Castle for some time, especially during the cherry blossom season. This year we got the chance to go! So we got a bunch of snacks and drinks and surrounded ourselves with sakura🌸 What's nice about the castle grounds is that it isn't just pretty during cherry blossom season. Like I said above, there are a variety of seasonal flowers here so you can get a different image of the grounds every time. 

📅🌼Flower Calendar🌺📅

Plum blossom: late Jan ~ late Feb
Cherry blossom: late March ~ early April
Azalea: mid April ~ early May
Japanese wisteria: late April ~ early May
Iris: late May ~ late June
Hydrangea: early June ~ late June
Lotus: mid July ~ mid Aug.

🏯A Place Filled with War History👊

After having a few drinks and enjoying the cherry blossom festival we went inside the castle tower.
Little were we expecting everything to be in Japanese,
so for that reason, I'm going to explain a few main things I learned from inside.
*There is an "Odawara Castle Tour Guide App" that you can download, 
and it will give you some information about the things on display
in English and a few other languages.
However, the descriptions are really limited so it was a bit disappointing.

  • With the rule from Hojo spreading all over the Kanto region, Odawara Castle's defenses against other clans grew and grew making it one of Japan's largest castle towers. Despite that massive power it held, there were 3 major attacks from Uesugi Kenshin (1561), Takeda Shingen (1569), and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1590). It's hard to know exactly HOW big Odawara Castle is/was, but once you go in there is a display on the wall listing the top 10 biggest castles in Japan which both puts things into perspective and adds new castles to your "to go to" list ➡➡➡
  • 1. Osaka (大阪城)
    2. Nagoya (名古屋城)
    3. Shimabara (島原半島) in Nagasaki
    4. Kumamoto (熊本城)
    5. Himeji (姫路城)
    6. Kokura Castle (小倉城) in Fukuoka

    7. Odawara Castle (小田原城) 
    8. Hiroshima Castle (広島城)
    9. Fukuyama Castle (福山城) in Hiroshima
    10. Wakamatsu Castle (若松城) in Fukushima 

  • L-R: Okubo Tadatomo, Inaba Masanori, Okubo Tadayo, Hojo Ujinao, Hojo Ujiyasu
    L-R: Okubo Tadatomo, Inaba Masanori, Okubo Tadayo, Hojo Ujinao, Hojo Ujiyasu
    There were 4 clans total that ruled the castle throughout history; Hojo clan, Okubo clan, Abe clan, and the Inaba clan. There are a lot of big named daimyo involved Odawara Castle. One is of course Hojo Ujinao (2nd from the right) who was the last leader of the Hojo clan and married Tokugawa Ieyasu's daughter in a sign of peace between the two. Something else I really like about the Sengoku period is that practically everyone is connected in some way. I didn't know anything about the Inaba family let alone Inaba Masanori (2nd from the left), but apparently, his grandmother was Tokugawa Iemitsu's (Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandson) wet nurse.
  • Hojo Ujinao VS Toyotomi Hideyoshi
    Hojo Ujinao VS Toyotomi Hideyoshi
    But of course, it would be nothing without mentioning the battle between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Odawara Hojo clan that ended the Hojo clan's supremacy and the castle was turned over to Tokugawa Ieyasu.
    In the final assault from Hideyoshi, the Odawara Hojo family made preparations for interception by building and repairing subsidiary castles in various places. However, Toyotomi, bringing an army of about 150,000, was too quick and skilled that they ended up swarming the castle and took the subsidiary castles. After being taken over by Toyotomi for 3months, Hoji Ujinao decided to concede. And upon ending this battle, Toyotomi Hideyoshi succeeded in dominating the entire land of Japan.  
  • Map of old Kanto area + the castles
    Map of old Kanto area + the castles
    I thought this map was really cool. It shows all of the provinces in the Kanto region with their names. So in the middle is the largest province, Musashi Province (武蔵), it is now the Tokyo Metropolis as well as some of Saitama and Kanagawa Prefectures. The only two castles I know inside there are of course Edo Castle (the Imperial Palace) and Hachioji Castle (which is also on our list of places to go even though it's only ruins now). Above the Musashi Province is the Kozuke Province (上野) (which I thought it was read as "Ueno" due to the exact same Chinese characters as the area in Tokyo...but I was wrong), which is today's Gunma Prefecture. I'm sure you noticed the red castle mark that's below Musashi Province, and yes, that's Odawara Castle! Odawara Castle was a part of Sagami Province (相模 ), which is now central and western Kanagawa Prefecture. 

🔍From the View Tower🗻

Go to the top of the tower and there will be an observation deck. On the way to the top though you go through 5 floors, explaining first the history of Odawara Castle, then to how it was demolished by earthquakes and left to nothing but ruins. It wasn't until years later they finally decided to reconstruct the castle. The view from the top is really pretty and it's nice because there are no gates up high in front of you getting in the way of taking pictures.

🌳Other Places to Check Out🌞 

There are three places that require an entrance ticket; Odawara Castle tower, Tokiwagi-Gate (samurai gallery), and the Rekishi Kenbun (Observation) Museum. You can either buy one ticket at the entrance or you can also get a set of tickets which is cheaper. 
Due to time, we only went into the castle tower, however, we plan on coming again for a different flower season and check out the other museums/galleries. 

  • Ruin of Hommaru Moat
    Ruin of Hommaru Moat
    Before the big battle with Toyotomi Hideyoshi broke out, Odawara Castle had moats built all around the castle and its town in preparation. It was then that they weren't quick enough for Toyotomi and they attacked the castle. Now they are just lovely places to walk around and enjoy the scenery♡ 
  • Rekishi Kenbun (Observation) Museum
    Rekishi Kenbun (Observation) Museum
    We didn't go in here, but this is the Rekishi Kenbun (Observation) Museum where there are models and more to check out while you learn more about the castle. Surrounding there is a nice open area that's perfect for picnics and doing hanami (花見). 

🏯Odawara Castle🏯

  • Although pretty far from Tokyo (about a 2hr train ride), it's a beautiful castle and the idea of being able to visit a castle within the Tokyo area is neat. Odawara Castle is about a 5min walk from Odawara Station, so the access there is super easy too! Something we didn't do that we wish we did was from Odawara Castle, go to Hakone and stay at a Japanese ryokan (traditional inn) for the night. Next time though!! Since it really is so close, like under 20minutes, it'd be a shame not to. I really recommend doing that. Even if you don't understand Japanese, you can still learn the bases of the castle history with the audio guide if you'd like. Or you can just have a picnic and walk around the castle grounds🌞 We can't wait to go back and see what the castle looks like with different flowers🏯 
🏯Odawara Castle (小田原城;Odawarajo)
🚉Odawara Station
Access: Just under 2000ft (600m) from station
Go out the East Exit and once outside go right. Keep walking until the road splits and go left.
Walk a bit and there will be an opening to the Odawara Castle Park (on the right side) and go in there! :) 
⏰9am~5pm (entry until 4:30pm)
Closed on Dec 31 & Jan 1
*Castle Tower is also closed on the 2nd Wednesday of December
Single tickets:
Castle Tower: 500yen・200yen
Tokiwagi Gate (samurai gallery): 200yen・60yen
Rekishi Kenbun (Observation) Museum: 300yen・100yen
Set tickets:
Castle Tower & Tokiwagi Gate: 600yen・220yen
All 3: 700yen・250yen
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