Odawara Castle

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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.

As the threat from Hideyoshi grew, the Hojo built out a great defensive perimeter, called the Sogamae (総構), around the castle consisting of over 9km of trenches and embankments. Most of the trenches were deep and had shojibori type defensive structures. They extend from the ocean in a horseshoe shaped ring up into the mountains around the castle providing very strong defenses and good lookouts in the mountains to watch over the gathering forces. This defensive perimeter was so impressive the idea was copied by some of the generals that participated in the siege and most notably by Hideyoshi himself in the design of the O-doi in Kyoto.

In Hideyoshi's Siege of Odawara, he brought many 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). Hideyoshi's stronghold for this siege was Ishigakiyama Castle which had a good view over the wider Odawara area. 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.

Visit Notes

Odawara Castle is probably the best example of a castle to visit in the immediate Tokyo area. I also think it tends to not get as much credit as it deserves when people compare it to the likes of Nagoya Castle, Osaka Castle, Okayama Castle and some of the other large reconstructions. The Umadashi Bailey and associated gates are brilliant reconstructions of this elaborate defensive design ond a one of a kind reconstruction.

The museum has been recently renovated with great new exhibits. In particular I appreciated that they have a book of all the exhibits, not just the artifacts but the information panels and displays, which is something I always thought museums should do.

Odawara Castle is like getting two castles for the price of one. The main keep, moats and other great reconstructions of the central compound are what most people are familiar with. While this was the center of the Hojo's castle, structures of this type were not from the Hojo's time. They are Edo Period structures. The Odawara Castle of the Hojo was mostly built over by a new Edo Period castle, but the outer ring of defenses, called the Sogamae, were mostly abandoned after the Siege of Odawara. These classic examples of Hojo type earthworks in the mountains surrounding the city are well preserved in many places today. Here is a good map of the castle and sogamae ruins. Despite visiting twice in the autumn of 2019, I still didn't make it around to all the remnants of this great castle.

The castle is still undergoing study and they are constantly improving the site. Recent efforts have focused on the Sogamae developing parks at the Shinbori Dorui and Hachimanyama East Bailey. Current studies are closer to the inner compounds looking at the Goyomai Bailey. Gardens, stone paths and shojibori moats have been uncovered around this bailey. I really hope they are developed for castles fans to enjoy.

Odawara also provides some apps to help increase your enjoyment of your trip to Odawara.

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Castle Profile
English Name Odawara Castle
Japanese Name 小田原城
Founder Hojo Soun
Year Founded 1495
Castle Type Hilltop
Castle Condition Reconstructed main keep
Designations Top 100 Castles, Top 100 Mountaintop Castles, National Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Main Keep Structure 3 levels, 4 stories plus one below ground
Year Reconstructed 1960 (concrete)
Features main keep, gates, turrets, bridges, water moats, trenches, stone walls, walls
Visitor Information
Access Odawara Station (Tokaido Line), 10 minute walk
Visitor Information Open 9am-5pm; Closed Dec31-Jan1; 510 yen
Time Required 120 mins (inner park only)
Website https://odawaracastle.com/
Location Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture
Coordinates 35° 15' 3.10" N, 139° 9' 14.04" E
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Admin
Year Visited 1999, 2009, 2010, 2019
Contributor Eric
Visits May 1999; October 12, 2009; April 3, 2010; October 21, 2019; December 5, 2019
Added to Jcastle 1999
Friends of JCastle
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3.46
(39 votes)
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SnoworionGunshi

34 months ago
Score 1++
I visited this castle on 9th November 2017. This is a reconstructed castle with a nice keep and lovely gardens. Its a nice castle to just drop by and visit if you have the time and if you are around the region. It is within walking distance from the train station. The castle itself is nothing spectacular when compared to others around the Kansai, Chubu or Chukogu regions where I feel there are the highest concentration of beautiful castles, but it has nice ground and it offers an excellent view from its top floor. However in my view the castle itself nor the grounds are the main attraction here - its the small museum on its ground with its collection of nice artefacts that is worth a look. Also there is its 5 minute graphic light show projected against the mock-up samurai suit of Tokugawa Ieyasu that I enjoyed the most. Talk about the perfect blend of traditional and modern.
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Kiddus i2003Gunshi

76 months ago
Score 0++
Just as impressive a second visit, with time spent checking out local area and \one night Castle"as well."""
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FurinkazanHatamoto

77 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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Anonymous user #1

79 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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Anonymous user #1

90 months ago
Score 0++
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?
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Anonymous user #1

101 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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Anonymous user #1

104 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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KrisGunshi

105 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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Anonymous user #1

105 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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RaymondWHatamoto

107 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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KrisGunshi

117 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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UsagiAshigaru

117 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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Anonymous user #1

129 months ago
Score 0++
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
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Anonymous user #1

132 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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Anonymous user #1

133 months ago
Score 0++

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.
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Jcastle.oldHatamoto

133 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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Jcastle.oldHatamoto

135 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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FurinkazanHatamoto

135 months ago
Score 0++
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.
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Anonymous user #1

139 months ago
Score 0++

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.