Culture Trip: A Day in Odawara
Often considered purely as a castle town, Odawara offers much more to those in search of an authentic cultural experience. Once home to a post station along the old Tokaido Road between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto, Odawara can also be considered a major gateway to the Hakone region that has developed its own, unique culture. From arts, crafts and traditional foods, Odawara has something for everyone and is easily accessible at just 90 minutes from Tokyo — with its own, convenient bullet train (shinkansen) stop.
Odawara Sannomaru Hall
The Odawara Sannomaru Hall opened in early September 2021 as a new center for culture and arts that aims to foster connections between people and the opportunities that can result. The state-of-the-art performance facility, in a symbolic location proudly overlooking Odawara Castle, also continues the legacy of the nearby Odawara Civic Hall (Odawara Shimin Kaikan), which closed in 2021 after 59 years of service to the community.
Odawara Sannomaru Hall’s Main Hall is a beautiful construction that can itself be considered a work of art, thanks to eaves using native Odawara wood, custom wall tiles and a Yoshizawa Kazuo-designed stage curtain hand-crafted in Kyoto. When the curtain draws back, auditorium guests—up to 1,105 seated—can expect impeccable acoustics from performances hosted here, not to mention views of Odawara Castle from the outside foyer.
The wider facility spans 3 floors, with the open lobby to the west entrance serving to connect the local town with the exhibition hall within. Inside you’ll find a ‘Creative Corridor,’ sound-proofed rooms plus studio, and a secondary performance hall, providing spaces where the public can create and perform. A Gallery Corridor—connecting large and small halls—provides another way for local citizens to showcase their artistic and cultural talents.
The modern facility sits just over the road from Megane Bridge and the Umadashi Gate, near the south-east corner of Odawara Castle Park, and just 13 minutes by foot from Odawara Station directly north. It’s a worthwhile stop on any cultural tour of the city.
Location: 1-7-50 Honmachi, Odawara City, Kanagawa
Access: 13 minutes walk from Odawara Station East Exit
Opening hours: 9am–10pm
Closed: 1st and 3rd Monday of the month (if the Monday is a national holiday, the first weekday after the following day)
Year-end and New Year's holidays (Dec 29th–Jan 3rd)
Official website: https://ooo-hall.jp/
Odawara Visitor Center
Next door to arts and culture center of Odawara Sannomaru Hall, you’ll find the Odawara Visitor Center with its striking kaburagi-mon gate overlooking Nigiwai Square, an outdoor events space with fountains, a staircase and terrace that connects to Odawara Sannomaru Hall.
Opened in July 2021, the first-floor Tourism Information Center provides information on local sightseeing—such as Odawara Castle itself—as well as information on townwalks and hands-on workshops. At the Museum Shop, you’ll find products crafted by local Odawara artists on sale, with a Free Space rest area on the second floor to take a break from sightseeing.
Cafe Sannomaru (10am–5pm) provides another space to relax and unwind amid the beautiful, minimally-designed stylish interior, as well as a chance to plan the next step on your tour of Odawara. As well as regular drinks, the cafe also serves a line-up of food, including pizza prepared on-site, as well as bento boxes, gelato and other seasonal items in collaboration with local brands like Kinjiro Cafe & Grill and Shokurakuan Hotoku.
Location: 1-7-50 Honmachi, Odawara City
Access: 13-minute walk from Odawara Station East Exit
Opening hours: 9am–5pm)
(CAFE SANNOMARU 10am–5pm / Last Order 4:30pm)
Closed: No vacations (December 29th to January 3rd is the year-end vacation.)
Official website: https://odawara-visit.com/
The symbol of Odawara City, the castle here is perhaps the best example of a Japanese castle in the eastern Kanto region of Japan — easily accessible from Tokyo in under 90 minutes. Whilst not an ‘original’, the modern Odawara Castle was faithfully rebuilt in 1960 with further renovations completed in 2016.
Inside you can find exhibitions about the castle’s history, including how the powerful Hojo clan eventually capitulated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s forces in the 1590 Siege of Odawara. The castle tower provides spectacular views from the top, overlooking the castle grounds—with its reconstructed gates and also cherry blossom in Spring—as well as Sagami Bay out at sea.
Around the park, you’ll also find the Odawara Castle History Museum—aka the Ninja Museum—where you can learn about the Fuma ninja group and their techniques across several, interactive zones. Close by, the Tokiwagi Gate Samurai Museum provides visitors a glimpse into the world of the samurai, the armor and weaponry they used and the rare opportunity to try on armor.
The Umadashi-mon Gate, to the eastern side of the park, is considere the main entrance to the castle park grounds and is located just over the road from Odawara Sannomaru Hall.
Access: 10 minutes walk from Odawara Station
Official website: https://odawaracastle.com/
Odawara Kamaboko Street
Kamaboko is a local Odawara specialty that dates back to 1115 (Heian Period) when it is said fisherman took their fresh produce from nearby Sagami Bay and began to process it. This unique cooked fish paste, often referred to as a Japanese fish cake, could be made thanks to the fresh spring water from the mountainous Hakone region, whose ryokans at the same time helped also popularize the product during its infancy.
Kamaboko Street, home to over 30 traditional stores, is classified as a registered cultural asset along the Hakone Hachiri — an ancient Tokaido path connecting Odawara, Hakone and Shizuoka prefecture that is a designated Japan Heritage.
Access: 15-minute walk from Odawara Station in the direction of the sea.
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