Since our boat trip to Hachijo-jima Island was canceled because a typhoon was forecast to interrupt the trip, a group of friends and I planned a backup trip to Odawara Castle to experience a more traditional side of Japan. For the most part, areas in the Tokyo Prefecture are very modern with the exceptions of spots of shrines placed throughout the city. Odawara Castle is probably the furthest outside the city we have been thus far. Considering that it was more than two hours away from campus, the trip was pretty inexpensive (only $13 one way).
Odawara Castle has a long history as a strategic headquarter in the late 15th century. My host mother explained that a Shogun wanted to unite all the clans in Japan and form a peace treaty; however, the Hojo clan refused to conform.
Eventually, the Hojo clan was defeated in a large siege around the 1590’s by a large force under the command of Hideyoshi. Apparently, the story of Hideyoshi is well known and quite popular throughout Japan is seems to be a timeless story. Our visit to Odawara Castle certainly made me realize how little I know about Japan’s history. It was certainly interesting to learn about the history of another country, and to retrace the steps of mighty feudal lords.
As you enter the site, you are greeted with sakura trees on one side, and construction on the other side (they are still excavating the outer castle). The original castle was largely destroyed by the Meiji government in 1867 (with the exceptions of its stone walls and moats), however the restoration process began in the 1930’s. Nowadays, the interior of the castle is used as a museum, and the surrounding area has become a popular location for sightseeing and experiencing traditional Japan.
Speaking of experiencing traditional Japan, the location had a site set up where you could rent and wear kimonos or real samurai armor!
This has got to be one of the most unique experience I’ve had so far in Japan!
Unfortunately, since the inside of the castle was a museum, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures. However the museum had countless historical artifacts, beautiful pieces of art, and weapons with interesting stories of romance, revenge, and heroic feats. We were allowed to take pictures at the top of the castle though!
There were also a lot of gardens and markets around the area!
We stopped by a famous restaurant that was recommended to us. The food was surprisingly affordable despite its exotic appearance! The drinks on the other hand were not (it was 600 yen for a cup of coke!! And refills aren’t a common thing in Japan!) It might be a little too adventurous for some friends back home, but we figured this was a once in a lifetime experience.
Anyway, I would definitely recommend Odawara Castle to visitors who would like to experience a bit of feudal Japan! We all had a great time, definitely got a lot of cool pictures!