The 15th-Century was a very turbulent time in Japans history. Kyoto was destroyed during the Onin War, The Kaga Rebellion overthrew Samurai rule, forcing Ishikawa into a theocratic state, and Edo castle, the beginning of modern-day Tokyo was built. But before all of that, An ancient Game of Thrones like struggle between opposing Samurai clans was going on.
The Omori clan had seized control of Odawara from the Kobayakawa clan (descendants of the 50th Emperor of Japan). Who were in turn, swiftly defeated by Ise Moritoki of Izu, a samurai from a very well to do family of shogunate officials who went on to be the founder of the Odawara Hōjō clan. It was under this clan that the Odawara Castle became a sort of ancient fort Knox. It was constantly expanded and fortified and with traps, moats, sheer drops, improved defenses, and deadly cliffs. It was a force to be reckoned with.
The Odawara Hōjō clan held their position for almost a century. When finally in 1587 they made one final push to increase all defenses in anticipation for what they thought would be the greatest battle of the castle’s history, A battle with Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Toyotomi Hideyoshi was many things. A General, a samurai warrior, but first and foremost he was a politician and was able to defeat this, by now, behemoth of a castle quite easily. For three months, he starved out the soldiers and pretended to be an even larger army than they actually were. This resulted in a win for Toyotomi with very little bloodshed.
Unfortunately for the next few centuries, the castle would come under heavy earthquake bombardment until finally all former feudal fortifications were ordered to be destroyed by the Meiji Government. The stone foundation of the castle became the foundation for the Shinto shrine that sits there still to this day.
Odawara Castle was rebuilt on a much smaller scale in the early 1900s and the grounds where the once gigantic structure sat has since been turned in to a child’s fairground, beautiful gardens, a Shinto shrine, a museum, and a really nice restaurant.
Odawara is a really nice picturesque day out, and an extremely interesting history to read up on. There is however, one downside to Odawara Castle though and that is monkeys in cages. I have been told that there used to be a zoo at Odawara Castle but has been decommissioned and the only residents left are the monkeys. As these monkeys have been raised in captivity they can’t just be released but They should be re-homed very soon.