No need to venture far from Tokyo for epic history, stunning nature and exceptional seafood.
Odawara is an often overlooked gateway to nature and history. Tourists looking for castles or towns rich in Japanese traditional culture often opt for Nagoya or Osaka, but why travel so far when this beauty is on Tokyo’s doorstep?
Most famous for Odawara Castle, originally built in the mid 15th century and held by the Hojo clan, Odawara is a treasure trove for those interested in Japan’s much talked about Warring States Era. It also happens to be Tokyo’s closest castle and keep combination, just over an hour away by train.
The castle is not Odawara’s only claim to fame. It is also the first town within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, which is famous for its hot springs and incredible views of Mt Fuji. Regular buses run through Odawara taking you to popular hiking destinations, and the station is also served by six different train lines including the Tokaido Shinkansen.
Fresh seafood is caught and sold everyday at Odawara Harbour. Kamaboko, steamed fish meat formed on a wooden block, is a popular food of choice for Japanese people, although not as famous outside of Japan as sushi or takoyaki. If you find yourself hooked, the Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum provides information on Kamaboko’s history and allows visitors the possibility of making their own.
A prime location for seafood and sea views, Odawara also specialises in pickled plums and paper lanterns (so often seen at Japanese festivals during the summer months).
Make like the locals and head to Seikantei. Originally the villa of a once illustrious family, it offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of the old-school Japanese elite and features the staples of Japanese home decor. It’s stunning seaside views of Sagami Bay overlook a perfectly arranged traditional garden. Relax and breathe in the all-natural scent of the tatami mat flooring while you unwind with tea and scones.
For those travelling with children, Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History is a favorite for its extensive collection of dinosaur fossils and insect exhibitions. At only 510 yen per person, this museum offers entertainment and education on a budget. If the kids would rather a more active day out, Odawara Wanpaku Land is a free playground with optional paid features such as an animal park and small themed rides; the perfect place for a family picnic.