Odawara Castle, the most unassailable castle in Japan

Odawara Castle was one of the strongest castle with the donjon

Photo by Alvinz

Odawara Castle is one of the most famous castle in Japan. Unfortunately, the present donjon of the castle is restored in 1960. But it shows the dignified appearance at that time.

 

Most of the Japanese people call to mind Odawara Castle when they hear the word of “unassailable”. The Hojo clan which ruled the whole district of Kanto in the Age of Civil Wars had their base at the castle for 100 years. Since even the great commander samurais including Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen could not take it. 

 

 

It is also popular spot of sakura (cherry blossoms) today and near from the Hakone hot spring resort. Why don’t you become a cultural and historical traveler at Odawara?

 

 

 

History

 

Before the Hojo clan

The origin of the castle was the small wooden fort of the head of the local powerful family Kobayakawa Tohira (?-1237) who was a vassal of Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199, the first shogun of Kamakura shogunate).

 

But Omori Yoshiharu (?-1469) helped the Kamakura Kubo (Governor-general of the Kanto region) and received the entire area of Hakone from Muromachi shogunate. Then rebuilt the fort into the wooden castle. However, it was small yet.

 

Rule of the Hojo clan

The samurai who pulled Odawara Castle up the center stage of history was Hojo Soun/Ise Sozui (1432-1519).

 

 

Hojo Soun (Ise-no Sozui)

 

The revolts of vassals against their lords sometimes happened in the Age of Civil Wars and he was typical. It is said he was only the child of a low-status samurai. But Soun killed the general Horigoe Kubo Ashikaga Chachamaru and extended the territory with his tactics and the art of diplomacy. He started the Age of Civil Wars of Kanto area.

 

In 1495, he attacked and got Odawara Castle. After moving to the castle, he carried out a reform of the land survey and established his administration. His sun Ujitsuna (1487-1541) and grandson Ujiyasu (1515-1571) also enlarged the territory around Odawara Castle which was gradually equipped and extended. 

 

When Ujiyasu or his sun Ujimasa (1538-1590) was the head of the Hojo clan, the uncommon daimyo Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578) and Takeda Shingen (1521-1573) the dogged castle but never got it. That is why people call the castle unassaible.

 

However, the five generation lord Hojo Ujinao (1591-1562) had to prepare for the invasion of the biggest force of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) in 1569. He made the defense walls larger with a total length of 9km (5.6mi). More than 200,000 soldiers arrived at Odawara and completely surrounded the castle on March. The force of Hideyoshi continue to siege and attack for more than three months and the Hojo clan surrendered finally. Hideyoshi made Ujimasa to perform hara-kiri and drove out Ujinao to Koyasan.

 

After the Hojo clan

The Hojo clan fell and the Okubo became the new master of Odawara Castle. Most of the buildings and stone walls were destroyed because of ‘Ordinance for Disposal of Castles’ in 1873 and the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. There was a time the castle was a prefectural office of Kanagawa. The Kanagawa Prefecture have rebuilt the buildings of the castle including the donjon, Sumi-Yagura turret, Tokiwaki gate, Do gate, and Umade gate. 

 

 

 

Present Odawara Castle Park

 

Donjon

The donjon of the castle is 38.7m (127ft) and reinforced concrete construction. There are the exhibitions of paints, historical documents, armors, and swords.

Opening hour   9:00-17:00

Single entrance fee   adult 500 yen, junior high or elementary school student 200 yen

 

Tokiwakimon Samurai-kan

In 2016, the Tokiwaki Gate reopened after renovation. You can enjoy the exhibition of armors and swords rather than the donjon.

Opening hour    9:00-17:00

Single entrance fee    adult 200 yen, junior high or elementary school student 60 yen

 

 

Set entrance fee of Donjon and Tokiwakimon Samurai-kan     adult 600 yen, junior high or elementary school student 220 yen

 

 

Sakura blossoms

Odawara Castle is the Historic Site of Japan and sees about 4.5 million visitors in a year. Especially, many people come to see the cherry blossoms from the end of March to the beginning of April.

 

 

The castle is not only one of the Japan’s Top 100 Castles but also Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Viewing Sites. You can see the illumination for the castle and sakura blossoms at the season.

 

The hour of illumination is 18:00-21:00.

 

 

 

Map

 

About 10 minutes walk from Odawara Station. It’s only 30 or 40 minutes from Hakone hot spring resort.

 

 



 

 

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