Odawara Castle is a beautifully reconstructed castle located in Odawara near Hakone. Stop by the castle keep and enjoy the grand scenery from the observatory at the top.
For part two of the Hakone Travel Guide series, we’ll continue exploring in the city of Odawara. Visit the grand Odawara Castle, eat regional seafood at the local soba-ya, and try the renowned red bean bread (anpan) from Yanagi Bakery.
Where is Odawara Castle
Odawara Castle is located about 10 min walking from Odawara Station, you can get to Odawara Station very quickly from Tokyo via shinkansen (you can use JR Pass) or take the local train for 1.5 hours from Tokyo. We recommend making a quick stop if you are on your way to Hakone. The castle is usually not crowded and it’s also the closest Japanese castle you can visit from Tokyo.
History of Odawara Castle
Unlike other Japanese castles which typically had one ruling clan that controlled it for a long period, Odawara Castle had many different clans that ruled it over time.
- In the early 1500s, the Hojo clan started to rule the castle and surrounding area. They then surrendered to Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590 after a 3-month battle. After the Hojo clan surrendered, it completed the unification of Japan for Hideyoshi.
- Hideyoshi then gave it to Tokugawa Ieyasu who in turn gave it to Okubo Tadayo.
- Not long after in 1614, the Okubo clan was punished and the castle was taken away from them and returned to the shogunate.
- In 1632, the castle was given to Inaba Masakatsu but then returned to the Okubo clan in 1686. Confusing right?
- The Okubo clan ruled it until Japan returned to the Imperial rule in the mid-1800s.
Odawara Castle 小田原城
Odawara Castle and its surrounding walls were destroyed many times throughout history due to earthquakes. The current reconstructed Odawara Castle was built in 1960 and three of the surrounding gates were rebuilt in 1971, 1997, and 2009.
As you walk towards the castle tower from Akagane Gate, you will come upon the restored Tokiwagi Gate (tokiwagi means evergreen). It is the most important gate for the strategic defense of the castle.
After passing through the Tokiwagi Gate you will see the castle grounds and the white towering Odawara Castle.
Unlike other reconstructed castles, Odawara Castle does not have an elevator so keep this in mind if you are traveling with someone who has difficulty climbing steps. To get to the entrance of the castle tower you have to walk up a number of stone steps.
Odawara Castle Tower
It’s free to walk around the Odawara Castle Park but there’s a small fee to enter the castle tower (500 yen for adult and 200 yen for kids).
The reconstructed castle tower has 5 floors:
- First floor – theater, shop, and exhibition on Odawara Castle in Edo Period
- Second floor – exhibition on Odawara Castle during the Warring States Period
- Third floor – Special Exhibition
- Fourth floor – Odawara Castles in the later years
- Fifth floor – Observation Deck
We toured the various exhibitions on the history of Odawara Castle and made our way to the 5th-floor observatory to take in the beautiful sceneries surrounding the castle.
Tokiwagi Gate Museum – The Spirits of Samurai Exhibit
After visiting the castle tower, we headed to the Tokiwagi Gate Museum. The small museum is located on the backside of Tokiwagi Gate and it had an exhibit on Japanese armor. The combination ticket to visit both the castle tower and the museum was 600 yen for adults and 220 yen for children.
Japanese armor and kabuto (helmet) worn by the lords were not only for protection during battles but also an expression of who they are. Each lord wore different designs and had their own signature element that represented their beliefs. It could be certain element on their helmet or color and patterns of their armor.
Odawara Hashimoto Soba Restaurant 橋本
If you visit Odawara Castle around mealtime, we recommend grabbing soba at Hashimoto Soba Restaurant near the castle.
The history of the restaurant dates back over 100 years and it’s currently run by the 6th generation of the family. They offer not only delicious soba but also local specialties like shirasu sashimi, aji (horse mackerel) tataki, sakura shrimp, and deep-fried kamaboko.
The soba was delicious and there’s a good selection of dishes you can pick along with soba.
Yanagiya Bakery 柳屋ベーカリー
Another popular shop in Odawara not far the castle is Yanagiya Bakery. The bakery has been around for close to 100 years and unlike most pastry shops in Japan, the shop has kept its rustic appearance and charm. Yanagiya Bakery offers ten kinds of bread (including chestnut, green tea, yam, shiso, etc) but they are the best known for their anpan (red bean bread).
Our family loves anpan so we couldn’t resist during our visit, and by the time we got to the shop at 2 pm they had only 3 anpan left in the entire store.
So why is their anpan so popular? The bread layer is very thin and it’s stuffed with a lot of delicious sweet red beans inside.
Our family has stopped by Odawara a few times over the years to visit the castle and to discover new shops and things to do on the way to Hakone. If you have stopped by Odawara and have spots to recommend, please let us know in the comments below. We’ll see you soon in Hakone Yumoto.