Odawara is attracting more visitors by re-opening Odawara Castle which recently renovated its viewing room. Located in the southwest of Kanagawa prefecture, Odawara has been playing a vital role since the Sengoku era (1493-1590). Due to the unique geographic nature, it was valued as a fortress and a gateway to Kyoto, especially during the Edo period (1603-1868). Odawara is a city with history, fresh seafood, and a great view of mountains and the Sagami Bay. Come and enjoy this cozy castle town for a day trip from Tokyo.
There are two main train lines to Odawara from Central Tokyo. One is the Odakyu line which runs straight from Shinjuku to Odawara and Hakone Yumoto. The rapid train takes you 80 minutes to get to Odawara for about 900 yen. You can reserve your seats on the Romancecar with extra charge, a limited express which leaves Shinjuku every 30 minutes.
The other line is the JR East line, which runs from central Tokyo to Odawara and Atami through Yokohama area. Although it costs you more, JR East line has a good transit connection and you can take the train at major stations such as Tokyo, Ueno, and Shinagawa.
The Odawara Castle is a place that you must definitely see. It is about a 15-minute walk from the train station passing through a variety of souvenir shops. Just looking at these shops is already entertaining and it increases the spirit of “I’m in a castle town.” The way the castle town is planned is different from modern cities. This may make you feel that you are time-traveling. The entrance of Odawara Castle is not limited to one gate and it is free to enter the domain including the garden. It has a breathtaking view from the ground when you look up the castle. Also, the structure of the garden was practically done as to surround the castle in order to protect it from enemies and also to entertain visitors.
The main attraction here is to climb up the castle. It costs 500 yen to enter the viewing room or the “tenshukaku.” Being the 7th highest castle in Japan, it offers you a 360-degree panoramic view from the top, where you can take a glance of the deep blue Sagami Bay, the beautiful Hakone mountains, and the cozy city of Odawara.
Originally, Odawara has been popular for seafood, processed fish paste called “kamaboko,” and the Japanese prime plum (ume). Aside from those, soba is also one of Odawara’s local dishes and you can easily find Soba restaurants in the area. My recommended soba restaurant is Hashimoto, located on the street which stretches to Odawara Castle from the train station.
This old Japanese house-style restaurant is famous for its deep-fried sakura shrimp tempura which goes well with smooth soba. They have both hot and cold soba dishes, and as well as udon. On weekends, it gets crowded quickly at lunch time, so please allow enough time to get seats and for your orders to be taken.
If you want to try something new, you can eat brunch at Shonan Pancake which offers soft and fluffy pancakes. They do not only have sweet pancakes covered with whip and fruits, but also plain lunch pancakes with cooked vegetables and eggs which prove to be people’s favorites. They also have rye pancakes, buckwheat galettes, and small side dishes such as salads and ham. At dinner time, alcohol is available, too. It is a 10-minute walk from the train station towards the south, and you can see the beautiful Sagami Bay along Highway 5. The interior is nicely decorated with a tropical theme and has a relaxing atmosphere. This is a trendy place to hang out with your friends, partner, and family.
If you are planning to visit Atami or Hakone for a weekend onsen trip, Odawara is on the way. So why not get off the train and enjoy the experience of the Castle and wander around this charming town for a while?