Towering on a stone foundation on a green hillside, the impressive Odawara Castle, with its five stories and three-tiered roof, presides over a small grove of cherry trees that explode in pinks and whites come spring. Located an hour south of Tokyo and blocks from the sea in Hakone, the castle is perhaps the largest and best preserved example of a 15th-century Japanese fortress in the area.
Behind two large decorative gates— Umadashimon and Akaganemon—the castle complex spans multiple buildings and gardens while including moat-like pools on two sides of the property. An onsite museum, inside the main castle tower, features artifacts, armor and weapons, as well as details of the castle’s storied history; the top floor affords views of Sagami Bay and the surrounding city. The castle was the built by the Omori Clan before changing hands in a late 16th century siege. The Okubo family, appointed to live there, ruled Odawara through nearly the entire Edo period before the castle went out of use in 1870.
The Odawara Castle complex is open daily from 9 a.m. til 5 p.m. with the final admission at 4:30 p.m. Basic admission is around ¥410 ($3.40) for adults and ¥150 ($1.25) for children, with additional admission required for those visiting the RekishiKenbunkan Museum—with audiovisual displays and more artifacts—within the complex grounds. It is a 10-minute walk from the Japan Railway-East Odawara Station. Several day trips from Tokyo include visits to the Odawara Castle Park, often incorporating stops at, if not cruises on, Lake Ashi with views of Mt. Fuji. Recent visitors note that the main donjon (castle keep) is being reinforced against earthquakes and will be under construction through April 2016; access to its museum may be limited during this time.