Odawara is a town situated on Sagami Bay along the Tokaido Line coast, fairly close to Mt. Fuji. It is best know for the beautiful Odawara Castle, and for being the gateway to the Hakone hot springs resort area, and the Fuji-Hakone National Park. It is the western-most point of Kanagawa Prefecture. Odawara also has its own hot springs area: Yugawara.
The coastal waters here, and especially at Enoura, are beautiful and clean. In fact, the pristine sea is well known for its abundance of kumanomi, fish, which can thrive only in clean, clear waters. Enoura is also a favorite spot for scuba divers who come to see the occasional sea turtle, as well as an abundance of other beautiful undersea life.
Odawara is also know for its kamakoko (a popular processed fish), and its umeboshi (salted pickled plums).
Other things to do and see
But it is to view the castle that most visitors come here. Japan once had more than 1000 castles, but today the number of castles that still exist stands at about 100. Only a few remain in their original form, while most of the others have been rebuilt to varying degrees over the years. This castle was most recently rebuilt in the late 1950s but is well worth a visit.
The Odawara Plum Festival, held during the month of February is also popular and delightful. The area is blessed with some beautiful plum groves that are wonderful to photograph. Throughout the year, there are a number of other enjoyable festivals held in Odawara: The Lantern Summer Festival, the Fireworks Festival along the Sakawa River, and a Noh Performance and Chrysanthemum Flower Exhibition at the castle later in the year.
Archaeological research shows that the Odawara region has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and that there existed a high population density during the Jomon era (14,000 BC-300 BC). Over the centuries, it eventually developed into a castle town under the control of the Hojo clan (mid 1400s-late 1500s). They were defeated however by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590, despite the protection the castle provided. After that, the city became a post station on the Tokaido highway that connected Kyoto with Edo (Tokyo), and prospered. Like most of the Kanto region, the city was completely destroyed in the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923. It was also the last Japanese city to be bombed during WW2. But again, like many cities in Japan, it began to flourish in the early 1960s with the lead up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the birth of Japan's industry and economy prowess. Odawara's population now stands at just under 200,000.
Odawara is sister cities with Chula Vista, California (since 1981); Manly, NeSouth Wales, Australia (since 1991); and Shenzhen, Guangdon, China (since 1993)
*For tourist information and free guide services, visit the Odawara-Hakone Systematized Goodwill Guide Service. They have a booth directly in front of the exit at JR Odawara Station. Reservations for free guided tours can be made through their website at http://www.ohsgg.com/