When it comes to visiting a medieval military stronghold in Japan, most tourists tend to conjure thoughts of the Osaka and Himeji Castle. While these fortresses are definitely worth visiting, they are located to the west in the Kansai region and can be a difficult reach for some travelers. Fret not though; luckily for those who are staying in and around Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture’s Odawara Castle is an excellent alternative. This eastern stronghold is the closest medieval fortress to Tokyo and can be easily reached by train.
While the current buildings are a reconstruction, Odawara Castle has a heap of historic tales to tell. For starters, the castle’s keep was originally built during the mid 15th century and fell under the control of the Hojo clan. This powerful clan ruled most of modern day Tokyo during Japan’s infamous Warring States period (1467–1603) and Odawara Castle was one of their most important bases. For those interested in learning more, the Wikipedia page does an excellent job of providing a historical overview and is worth checking out before your visit.
Unfortunately, the original castle was destroyed by an earthquake in 1703 but was soon rebuilt thereafter. The castle was once again dismantled following Japan’s entry into modernity with the Meiji Restoration. The current superstructure is constructed of ferro-concrete and is based on models and blueprints from the Edo period (1603–1868). Much like other reconstructions, the present day Odawara Castle houses an extraordinary museum.
Before moving on, let’s pause to note that Odawara borders on the Hakone. This location makes Odawara Castle a compelling detour for those en route to the famous onsen town. The fortress has all the makings of a great day trip for those itching to visit a castle but I highly recommend that you instead consider overnighting in Hakone. For more information and a sample itinerary, refer to my Hakone area guide.
How to Get There
Odawara can be easily reached in just over an hour from central Tokyo via the the JR Tokaido line. No doubt…