Odawara Castle 小田原城
Founder Hojo Soun
Hojo
Year 1495
Type Hilltop
Condition Reconstructed
Reconstructed 1960 (concrete)
Structure 3 levels, 4 stories plus one below ground
Admin's Rating ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Historical Site National Historic Site
Historical Value Top 100 Castles
Location Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture
Map Google Map
Access Odawara Station (Tokaido Line), 10 minute walk
Website Odawara City Website
Visited May 1999; October 12, 2009; April 3, 2010
Notes Odawara Castle is probably the best example of a castle to visit in the immediate Tokyo area. The museum in the main keep has a nice collection of artifacts, armor, and weapons. They have also done a great job reconstructing some gates and maintaining the castle grounds.
History The history of Odawara Castle actually began in the 15th century with a stronghold built by the Omori Clan. After Hojo Soun conquered the area in 1495, he and his ancestors gradually expanded the castle as the Hojo clan gained power. At the height of their power, the Hojo controlled much of the Kanto area with support castles on the fringes in modern day Chiba, Ibaraki, Saitama, and Kanagawa prefectures.

Odawara Castle faced three major attacks by Uesugi Kenshin in 1561, Takeda Shingen in 1569 and Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590. The last siege by Toyotomi Hideoyoshi was the end of the Hojo clan's supremacy and the castle was turned over to Tokugawa Ieyasu.

In the final siege by Hideyoshi, he brought all his generals from around the country with about 200,000 troops to bear on Odawara Castle. In the leadup to the siege, the various generals took over Hojo castles and strongholds on their way to Odawara. As Hideyoshi closed the net around Odawawa he flaunted his strength by creating an almost festival like atmosphere with performances and tea ceremonies and he even brought in his concubine (Yodo-dono) and tea master (Sen no Rikyu). Hojo eventually conceded his defeat and turned over the castle with little bloodshed.

Once Tokugawa Ieyasu took control of the castle, he stationed his vassal Okubo Tadayo as castle lord. Okubo reduced the size of the castle from the Hojo days because it representated a threat to the Tokugawa power. The Okubo family ruled over Odawara for the entire Edo Period except for a brief period in the 1700's. The castle was dismantled in 1870.

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  • kiddus_i2003 on My Page    June 02, 2014 at 02:24 PM
    Just as impressive a second visit, with time spent checking out local area and "one night Castle" as well.
  • furinkazan on My Page    May 09, 2014 at 05:23 PM
    On my way from Nagoya to Tokyo, i revisited this castle. Actually the first time, i was in a group and they weren't interested in Japanese castles. We saw the castle from the outside and didn't went inside. This time i did it properly and i am happy to have done so. The reconstructed parts are worth the visit and even if this castle has a concrete tenshu the artifacts inside it are very interesting. I bought a book of the armor and helmets collection of the castle. It is only in japanese but for every piece described you have 4 to 5 photos. I can read hiragana and all the pieces have the hurigana(=small hiragana next to kanji(=chinese characters)) for their description. There is also a book about the excavations, which are still going on, and the reconstructions. It is only in japanese too and too complicated for me, so i didn't bought this one. For 300 yen you may put a fake armor to take pictures on the castle grounds. I really recommend to visit this site when you are in the vicinity.
  • Anonymous    February 25, 2014 at 05:12 PM
    The castle was beautiful and the museum artifacts were worth the trip to Japan, especially if you have an interest in the Edo Period. Our day was ruined, however, by the discovery of some poor monkeys in a cage on the way out of the compound, living in their own filth. It was very upsetting and ruined the whole day. Time to campaign with animal rights organizations to help the poor animals. This is the 21st Century, for crying out loud.
  • Natchar    April 10, 2013 at 08:25 AM
    Big Castle, lot of space but animal keep in tiny space, the elephant in tiny area compare the the size of him. should have treat them better. Japanese are kind people, Could you be kind to the animal at the castle as well?
  • Anonymous    May 30, 2012 at 07:40 AM
    I saw the elephant when I was at Odawara Castle in 2005. I felt so sorry for it. It was chained by one leg and was standing on a concrete slab.....no shade trees in sight. I hope it didn't spend all 62 years of its life like that.
  • Kevin Sharadin    February 25, 2012 at 09:39 PM
    My favorite things of Odawara area are: 1) Odawara Castle, 2) There's an alleyway nearby the station where there are lit up canvas of places in the world that is really neat art to look at and take pics of, 3) There's monkeys outside the castle. 4) lots of places to shop for gifts, etc. It's a nice place all in all to go site seeing and have a good time.
  • Kris    January 30, 2012 at 12:35 AM
    Went to Odawara castle today. I still maintain it is a really nice site to take others to simply for a day out sightseeing. It looks really good considering it was built in the 60s; and the ongoing gate reconstructions in latter years are a sort of living testament to how far the art of castle reconstruction has come since then. To answer the questions about the zoo, the elephant, Umeko, passed away September 17th 2009, at the age of 62. Some Japanese monkeys in a cage are all that remain at the site.
  • kamiseya    January 22, 2012 at 04:51 AM
    When I was stationed in Japan went often to this area. Visited this castle in 1962 and as I recall a elephant kept there also. Have often wondered through the years if the elephant was still there. For a reconstructed castle it is very nice-don't miss it if in the Hakone Mtn area.
  • RaymondW on My Page    November 25, 2011 at 03:36 PM
    This is a good castle to visit if you are in the Kanto Region. I made it to this place on my way to a recent conference in Tokyo. As stated on this website, it has plenty of reconstructed gates and earthworks. The museum is pretty good, and there is some attempt to make the inside of this castle look wooden with some wooden panelling. No photos are allowed in the castle. Good place to learn about Hojo Clan.
  • Kris on My Page    January 21, 2011 at 11:03 PM
    Went to Odawara for that all important second date - for that reason Odawara stands as the most romantic castle I have been to. The museum was filled with explanations of the genealogy of the Latter Hojos, as well as a general collection of weaponry, armour and the like. The view from the top of the keep out across the ocean, especially towards the end of the afternoon, had a certain sort of charm. We were leaning on the railing gazing out at the waves and I said, 'So I guess that would be where Chosokabe was,' and he replied, 'Actually, that's Kuki; Chosokabe would be more over there.' I recommend that line to anyone. I also recommend the Rekishikan.
  • Usagi on My Page    January 14, 2011 at 10:01 PM
    Easy drive from Tokyo but very touristy. Has a lot of information in English, indoor museum with wide range of local period artifacts. Outer gate and red wooden bridge, with children's rides and monkeys in a cage.
  • tsukaiban    January 27, 2010 at 12:47 PM
    I believe this is one of the best castle I've seen in Japan. Despite the fall of Hojo Clan in 1590, there are still one the best reigning Daimyo in the region. Of all the daimyo in Japan the Hojo Clan of Odawara took control of area and set a system of castles for observation purposes against any attacks specially from the Takeda and Uesegi clan
  • Julian (from Canada)    October 23, 2009 at 09:46 AM
    I spent a morning in Odawara about six years ago, but didn't have time to go to the castle. I finally made a few months ago. Odawara-jo has the best castle-museum I have seen.
  • Shoegirl    October 18, 2009 at 12:28 PM
    Hi, I have just returned from Japan, and visited Odawara castle. I enjoyed seeing the castle, but found the animals there unnecessary . There are monkeys kept in a small cage, the elephant was kept in a tent, but passed away a few weeks ago.
  • Admin    October 14, 2009 at 11:47 PM
    I visited Odawara the other day on our day off and found out that the elephant some people have mentioned passed away in sept 2009 at 60 some yrs old.
  • Admin    August 04, 2009 at 07:44 AM
    It's been more than 10 years since I went to Odawara Castle, but I keep hearing about this elephant (poor thing!). I'll try to make a trip this year to update this site.
  • furinkazan    August 04, 2009 at 02:13 AM
    This is the first japanese castle i saw. I went there in april 2004. I was a little bit disappointed by the castle and the life elephant(lol). But the shrine next to the castle made my day.
  • Brian    April 05, 2009 at 12:15 PM
    I visited Odawara Castle last year. While I enjoyed the castle itself, I found the (live) elephant in the hon-maru somewhat out of place. I'm sure the children's train ride in the ni-no-maru is also good for business.
  • Lizzie    September 28, 2008 at 09:55 AM
    This website has a few points on the Odawara Castle, but Wikipedia has some better information.
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Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture
Odawara Castle views
main keep main keep
yagura, moat and stone walls outside of the umadashi gate
inside the masugata gate of the umadashi. umadashi entrance and masugata gate
akagane gate uzumimon style gate of a masugata
Akagne gate yaguramon moat and bridge
Tokiwa Gate View from the top of the main keep
moat earthen embankment
dry moat of Komine donjon