Odawara Castle is a hilltop (hirayama-type) castle located in southwestern Kanagawa Prefecture on Sagami Bay.
The first fortification on the current site of the castle was built around the end of the twelfth century by the Doi (土井) family and later enlarged by the Kobayakawa (小早川) clan. In 1495, the founder of the Late Hōjō clan, Ise Moritoki, who entered the Japanese annals as Hōjō Sōun (北条早雲, 1432-1519), established his residence at Odawara Castle. Five generations of Hōjō gradually expanded not only their headquarters but also the lands under their control, which comprised most of the modern-day Kanto region; with an impressive nine-kilometre fortress surrounding the castle town as a bulwark against attacking enemies, Odawara Castle grew to the most considerable dimensions in its history under Hōjō Ujinao (北条氏直, 1562–1591).
The defenders successfully repelled attacks by famous warlords such as Uesugi Kenshin (上杉謙信, 1530-1578) in 1561 and Takeda Shingen (武田信玄, 1521-1573) in 1569, but finally surrendered to Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590 after a three-month siege. Hideyoshi and his generals had amassed 200,000 soldiers, effectively besieging the castle by land and by sea; Hideyoshi even constructed Ichiya Castle on a mountain overlooking Odawara which nowadays bears the name Ishigakiyama. Ichiya Castle (一夜城) means “one-night castle”, as it was erected not overnight, but in just eighty days by stonemasons brought in from Kyushu. It was abandoned after the Hōjō’s surrender.
Hideyoshi awarded the eight provinces of the Kantō region to Tokugawa Ieyasu who would later establish his residence in Edo. Ieyasu assigned the castle, the Odawara domain as well as 45,000 koku of annual income to one of his senior retainers, Ōkubo Tadayo (大久保忠世, 1532-1594) whose family held the castle and the domain until the end of the Tokugawa Period in 1867, except for the period from 1632-1686 when the Inaba (大久保) family ruled over the domain.
Under the Ōkubo, the dimensions of Odawara Castle were significantly scaled-down, while the Inaba renovated the entire structure extensively, giving the castle a new look. In 1703, the castle keep and other structures were severely damaged in the Genroku earthquake; however, in 1706, the Ōkubo rebuilt the donjon.
In 1870, after the Meiji Restoration, Odawara Castle was demolished, following government orders to destroy all fortified structures of the feudal domains. Subsequently, the castle ground served as the location of Ōkubo Jinja, a shrine dedicated to the former feudal family, as well as the Odawara Imperial Villa. The villa and the remaining stone foundation were destroyed in the Kantō Earthquake of 1923. In 1938, the castle ruins were designated a National Historic Site.
In 1950, the renovation of the castle keep as well as the reconstruction of other structures commenced. The donjon was rebuilt as a ferroconcrete structure in 1960 according to Edo-period models and original drawings. The main entrance gate, the Tokiwagi-mon (常盤木門, “Evergreen Gate”), named after nearby pine trees, was restored in 1971; the Akagane-mon (銅門, “Copper Gate”), situated on the path leading up from the former stables and the front gate of the Ninomaru (二之丸, second bailey) and featuring intricate copper fittings, was restored in 1997. The main gate of the Ninomaru, the Umadashi (馬出, “horse release”) which connected to the stable area (厩曲輪 umaya-kuruwa) was rebuilt in 2009.
The four storeys of the donjon house artefacts of the Sengoku and the Edo periods, such as armour, swords and other weaponry, as well as exhibits of daily life. It focuses on the history of Odawara and the Late Hōjō. The Odawara Castle Historical Museum, located next to the castle, is divided into different zones, highlighting the Hōjō period, the Edo period as well as the development of modern Odawara. Unfortunately, most of the information is only in Japanese.
More photos in the Odawara Castle album.
Visiting hours and admission:
Admission: 410 JPY for adults (600 JPY combined with the Historical Museum), 150 JPY (200 JPY combi ticket) for elementary and junior high-school students; group discounts available.
Opening hours: daily from 09:00 to 17:00 (access to the castle until 16:30); closed between December 31 and January 1; the castle park is open daily from 08:00 to 21:00.
The castle can easily be reached from Odawara Station (10-minute walk).
- Odawara Castle (Odawara City, multilingual)