Archive for May 21, 2017

a visit to odawara castle   10 comments

Sunday, May 21: Today, I take a relatively short and easy trip to Odawara Castle. I want to see the castle, but I’m also interested in having a peek at the surrounding area known as Hakone.  I want to see how much of a hassle it is to get to the area and whether it can be done in a day trip.  While here, I decide I will do the Hakone trip next weekend, May 27-28, and I will make it an overnight trip.

Luckily I’m only two stops from Machida, where it’s possible to get on the Odakyu line  straight to Odawara. I have heard about the Romancecar, which is the limited express, reserved-seat train along the Odakyu line, but I don’t take it this time because I don’t really understand how it works and whether I need to reserve a ticket ahead of time.

Odawara Castle was originally built by the Omori family in the mid-15th century; it later became the base of the Odawara-Hojo family, one of the most powerful clans during the Warring States Era.  The castle gradually expanded as the family’s foothold from which they ruled the Kanto region.

During the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573), Odawara Castle had very strong defenses, as it was situated on a hill, surrounded by moats with water on the low side, and dry ditches on the hill-side, with banks, walls and cliffs located all around the castle, enabling the defenders to repel attacks by great warriors in 1561 and 1569. (Wikipedia: Odawara Castle)

bridge to Odawara Castle

In 1590, Toyotomi Hideyoshi attacked the castle, and with the defeat of the Hojo Clan, reunited Japan. After the decline of the Hojo family, the Okubo family became the castle lord.  Though the castle was repaired many times, it was destroyed when the Okubo family’s status and territory were taken as punishment.  Why they were punished, I don’t know.

Later, when the Inaba family became the new lord, the castle and surrounding grounds were devastated in the earthquake of 1633.  After that, the Inaba family renovated the castle and built Odawara Castle as the modern citadel seen today.

Irises before the bloom

After the Meiji Restoration, Odawara Castle was abolished in 1870 and the structures were either demolished or sold. The castle site went under the army’s jurisdiction and was later used as an imperial villa, which was sold to Odawara Town following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

Today, I run into some characters dressed in period costumes.

some ancient characters

The castle keep is three stories on the outside and four stories on the inside. The interior features exhibits on the history of the castle as well as displays of items such as armor and swords.

Today Odawara is the closest castle keep to Tokyo ( Odawara Castle).

Odawara Castle

I happen upon a Japanese couple trying to take a selfie; after offering to take a picture of them, they offer to take one of me.  So here is a rare picture of me in Japan, although my face is hidden in shadow. 🙂

me at Odawara Castle

The top floor offers nice views of the park and surrounding city on a wrap-around balcony.  It happens to be a warm day today, but at the top, a nice breeze offers a cool respite from the heat. To the northeast, I can see Sagami Bay.

views from Odawara Castle – looking northeast

To the west, I can see the mountains in the distance.  Closer, I see the train station, with the Shinkansen zooming out of the station.

view to the west

To the south, I can see the mountains of Hakone.  Seeing them in the distance makes me realize how large the Hakone area is, and though many people see Hakone in a day trip from Tokyo, I don’t want to be rushed through it.

view to the south

view to the south

view southeast

view northeast

a glowing character

Because there are so many characters who occupied Odawara castle through its history, and because I see all these men pictured in the castle’s museum where photography isn’t allowed, I buy a postcard that features the men of Odawara’s long and distant past.

some famous ancient characters on a postcard

I’m tired and don’t want to make a long day of it, so I head back to the station; on the way, I find a conveyor belt sushi place where I stop for a late lunch. The plates go by slowly, but I seem to be too uncoordinated to pick them up.  I have to make several attempts to capture a plate.  I also order a couple of things off the menu and I’m surprised when they fly to me on a different track, screeching to a halt at my table.  I can’t help but think of these plates as shinkansen sushi.

Today I walk the fewest steps I’ve walked since I arrived in Japan, except during one rainy day when I stayed inside all day: 7,218 steps (3.06 miles).

I’m sure I’ll make up for this shortfall when I come to Hakone next weekend. 🙂


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