“YOU should go to Odawara and visit the castle, it’s beautiful this time of the year,” says my host as he took off to his work.

I was on my own, and since I came to Japan for the sakura or the cherry blossoms, I was determined to chase it wherever it was prolific. And Odawara was my next stop.

Traveling around Japan today is less challenging compared five years ago during my first visit.

Directional and street signs carry the English translations below the Japanese text making the renowned destinations easier to find. With the additional information, traveling solo won’t be a problem.

Machida to Odawara is a 30-minute travel if took the Odakyu Line rapid train and about an hour on the local express that services more stations than the latter.

I disembarked at the rapid train’s terminus, the Odawara Station in the Western Kanagawa Prefecture.

The station, built in the 1920’s and remodeled in 2005, became the gateway station to the Hakone area. The place is famous for its hot springs and the view of the famous Mt. Fuji.

My destination presented itself perched on high ground upon exiting the station. The landmark Odawara Castle is a 15-minute uphill walk from the railway.

The Odawara Castle is the most popular sightseeing spot in the city and favorite spot to view the cherry blossoms during springtime.

Odawara castle was built in 1447 in the Edo Period.

Through history it witnessed three battles in 1561, 1569 and 1590 and went through several reconstructions and extensive renovations by its occupants, and was even rebuilt after it was destroyed in the earthquake tragedy in 1703.

It was also demolished in 1872 with the order of the new Meiji government but the the stone base of the former donjon Was retained to be used as the foundation for a Shinto shrine which was ruined in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.

The castle site was proclaimed a national historic monument in 1938, and in 1950 the donjon’s the stone base was repaired and the area turned into the Odawara Castle Park.

An art museum, local history museum, city library, amusement park and zoo are found inside the castle site.

In 1960, on the 20th Odawara City foundation day, the three-tiered, five-storied donjon was rebuilt with the top floor used as an observation deck, an appointment not historically accurate.

A plan truer to its late Edo period format was executed, which lead to the reconstruction of the Tokiwagi Gate in 1971, the Akagane Gate in 1997, and the Umade Gate in 2009.

In 2006, the Japan Castle Foundation included the reconstructed Odawara Castle to the list of 100 Fine Castles of Japan.

Indeed the place was beautiful during springtime. It was heartwarming to watch the locals enjoying their hanami under the blooms and enchanting to catch the cherry blossom trees at the castle’s base making the castle appear as if it was floating on its delicate petals.

Making my way to Odawara was a good decision.

Odawara Castle is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission at 4:30) except December 29th to January 1st. Entrance fee: ¥300 adults, ¥100 children.

Email me at jinggoysalvador@yahoo.com. For more lifestyle & travel stories, visit http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com and http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com.

Also read these related stories: