Step into a world where ancient tales of valor and feudal power come to life amidst towering walls and serene gardens. Welcome to Odawara Castle, a historic gem in Japan's Kanagawa Prefecture—just over an hour from central Tokyo.
With its storied past and architectural grandeur, this fortress invites visitors on a captivating journey through time. Here are some of the best things to do around Odawara Castle, for the full experience of the place.
Special Tour: You can book a guided tour of Odawara Castle and surrounds, which ends with a traditional kaiseki meal accompanied by geisha. Dinner is served in a high-end restaurant with over 260 years of history. The tour includes a costume.
History of Odawara Castle
Odawara Castle (小田原城, Odawarajō), initially constructed in the mid-15th century, was built by the Omori clan in the Muromachi era. It became the stronghold of the Hojo Clan during the Warring States, or Sengoku period (1477 - 1573), providing them with control over the region around present-day Tokyo.
Under the leadership of subsequent Hojo clan members, such as Hojo Ujitsuna and Hojo Ujiyasu, Odawara Castle grew in size, strength, and strategic importance. However, in the early 17th century, following the fall of the Hojo clan, much of Odawara Castle was destroyed.
The current reconstruction of Odawara Castle was completed in 1960. It is a replica of the original castle, based on Edo-period models and drawings. Designated as a national historic site in 1938, Odawara Castle now stands as the closest castle keep to Tokyo, preserving its historical significance and offering visitors a glimpse into Japan's feudal past.
Things To Do Around Odawara Castle
Here are some of the best things to do around Odawara Castle:
- Visit Odawara Castle!
- Dress up as a Samurai
- Learn About the Ninja Lifestyle
- Enjoy the Cherry Blossoms
- Stroll Through Odawara Castle Park
- Attend a Cultural Event
- Explore Odawara City
- Enjoy Local Food
- Have Dinner With a Geisha
1. Visit Odawara Castle
Begin your visit by exploring the castle itself. Odawara Castle offers a fun yet informative experience for castle and culture lovers. Don't forget to climb to the top of the main tower for panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscapes.
2. Dress up as a Samurai
For both the young and the young at heart, feel free to play dress up with the samurai outfits available for public use at Odawara Castle. With the historical exhibits and projection mapping in the samurai museum, you can determine the realism yourself. The castle grounds make the perfect backdrop for photos.
3. Learn About the Ninja Lifestyle
It’s said that a group of Fuma ninjas contributed to the success of the daimyos of Odawara Castle. At the Ninja Museum, located within the castle grounds, you can learn all about them and their lifestyle. These ninjas, in particular, became more popular after being featured in the well-known manga/anime, Naruto.
4. Enjoy the Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms in Odawara bloom around late March to early April, creating a picturesque and enchanting atmosphere. The castle grounds and park, as well as the cherry blossom-lined Saikaikokoji Street, are popular destinations to admire the stunning cherry blossoms in full bloom.
Taking a stroll or having a picnic under the blooming cherry trees is a cherished tradition for locals and a must-do activity for visitors to Japan.
5. Stroll Through Odawara Castle Park
Odawara Castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens, with a rotating variety of flowers to make each visit wonderfully scenic. Take a leisurely walk, enjoy the serene atmosphere, and appreciate the traditional Japanese landscaping. For those with children, fear not, as the small amusement park, mini train, and zoo will be sure to captivate your young ones.
6. Attend a Cultural Event
Throughout the year, Odawara Castle hosts several festivals. Flower festivals abound, but there is also a lantern festival (late October) and the Hojo Godai Festival (early May), where costumed warriors parade around. Check the castle's schedule for any cultural events or performances taking place during your visit.
7. Explore Odawara City
Take some time to explore Odawara City itself. Visit local markets, shops, and restaurants to experience the region's culinary delights and find souvenirs. The city also has a rich history beyond the castle, with temples, shrines, and historic streets worth exploring.
8. Enjoy Local Cuisine
In Japan, Odawara is famous for its local specialties. To start, try "kamaboko," a type of fish cake, or "sakura shrimp" dishes, which are popular in the region. See where to eat in Odawara.
Tip: For a hands-on experience with kamaboko, visit the Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum, just one train stop away from Odawara Station.
9. Have Dinner With a Geisha
For a meal you'll never forget, book a special kaiseki dinner with a geisha in Odawara. Bookings are limited, and the chef crafts a customised menu for each group of visitors, using fresh seasonal ingredients.
Your real-life geisha hosts will keep you entertained during the meal, and you'll have a chance to play traditional games with them afterwards.
The dinner takes place at a high-end restaurant that has been going for over 260 years, with the history tangible in its Gassho-zukuri style of architecture.
Odawara Castle Details
Odawara Castle is a 10-minute walk from Odawara Station on the JR and Odakyu train lines, accessible directly from Shinjuku in Tokyo. You can also take a taxi from Odawara Station to Odawara Castle.
The Castle Keep
The Castle Keep at Odawara Castle is open from 9:00 to 17:00, with the last entry permitted at 16:30. It offers visitors the opportunity to explore the historical castle and its exhibits. Bear in mind that the Castle Keep is closed on the second Wednesday of December and from December 31 to January 1. The admission fee for the Castle Keep is ¥510 per person.
The Ninja and Samurai Museums
In addition to the Castle Keep, there are Samurai and Ninja museums available for exploration. The museums operate during the same hours as the Castle Keep, from 9:00 to 17:00, with entry until 16:30. However, they are closed from December 31 to January 1. The admission fee for the Ninja Museum is ¥310, while the Samurai Museum has an admission fee of ¥200. Alternatively, visitors can opt for a combined ticket that allows access to the Castle Keep and both museums, with an admission fee of ¥610.
Odawara Castle FAQs
Here, we try to answer some of the most common questions about Odawara Castle.
What Is the Significance of Odawara Castle?
Odawara Castle holds a prominent place in Japan's history. As a feudal-era stronghold, it was the seat of power for the influential Hojo clan, showcasing their authority and defense strategies during the Sengoku period.
Positioned strategically on the Tokaido Road, Odawara Castle controlled access to vital economic and political centers, playing a pivotal role in the region's history.
Today, it serves as a source of local pride, hosting festivals and events that celebrate the region's identity and traditions, making Odawara Castle a significant landmark deeply intertwined with Japan's historical and cultural tapestry.
Is Odawara Castle Worth Visiting?
Yes! Odawara Castle is highly recommended by travellers. Watch our video about how to enjoy a day trip to Odawara, if you're not convinced.
Odawara's proximity to the popular Hakone region allows visitors to easily explore its stunning scenery, hot springs, and iconic Mount Fuji views. Incidentally, if you are going to be in Hakone, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to eat there.
What's Inside Odawara Castle?
Inside Odawara Castle Tower, you can see special and permanent exhibitions featuring armor, swords, and old documents about Odawara Castle and the surrounding area. Speaking of the surrounding area, you can get a great view from the Observation Deck!
In the Tokiwagimon Samurai Hall, there are exhibits specializing in the material culture of samurai. There is even a digital projection of a samurai in traditional armor.
Within the castle grounds, located near the main entrance, lies the Ninja Museum. Step inside to embark on an obstacle course that deepens your understanding of ninja skills, culture, and the chance to experience being a ninja firsthand. This is your chance to do that Naruto run you’ve been secretly practicing in your bedroom all these years!