Friday, November 24, 2006

Odawara, Hakone and Saijoji Temple

Pictures of Hakone by Norikazu Yamaguchi


Historically famous, Odawara is now famous for her castle and grounds. In the past 15 years the moat and castle grounds have been reconstructed to reflect what the castle must have looked like in centuries past. Well worth a visit if you are interested in castles or military history. Plus in the springtime the cherry blossoms around the moat will take your breath away. The castle is located about twenty minute walk southeast of Odawara Station. Head right as you exit the station and walk up the hill. Or take one of the many taxis parked out front.Odawara Castle in Japanese is pronounced: "Odawara-jo." Apart from the castle, Odawara is a typical Japanese city.

To get to Odawara From Tokyo: you can take the Odakyu line from Shinjuku, be sure to get on a train with red kanji on the side, (usually to the left of the door) as this is the express. Be sure to get on one of the first four train cars as the train often splits at Sagami Ono and the back part heads off to Fujisawa. It will take approximately 90 minutes.

You can also take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Odawara and that will take about 40 minutes or the Tokaido Line train from Shinagawa or Tokyo and that will take about 90 minutes from Shinagawa Station to Odawara.

Saijoji (Saijo Temple) in Minami Ashigara City

Perhaps the most underrated one in Japan! Nestled amongst huge cedars, with none of the city distractions that the temples in Kyoto and elsewhere have to offer. Saijoji is fantastic. In Japan, many of the temples are surrounded by noisy city traffic. Saijoji is very large, beautiful and the natural setting is amazing. To get there:

Take the Daiyuzan Line from Odawara Station and get off at the end of the line at Daiyuzan Station (24 minutes).Exit the station and go out to the main road in front. Head left up that road all the way to Saijoji about a 50 minute hike that is well worth it for the fresh air and huge trees. Or take one of the nearby taxis to the right of the station and tell them: "Saijoji." Buses are also available. Again ask for the "Saijoji bus."

Hot Springs of Hakone

"Hakone is the Japanese tourist-mecca par excellence. If the weather cooperates and Mt. Fuji is clearly visible, the Hakone region can make a fun day trip from Tokyo. You can enjoy cable-car rides, visit an open air museum, poke around smelly volcanic hot springs and cruise Ashino-ko. If it`srainy or cloudy, however, you may simply feel that you`re riding a conveyor belt of which the sole purpose is to strip you of your cash."--Japan, Lonely Planet

Yumoto is the most popular hot springs resort in the Hakone region.

To get there:Take the Hakone Tozan Railway from Odawara to Yumoto Station. Most of the best hot springs are near the station.

The Hot Spring Baths

Kappa Tengoku Notemburo =0/personOpen 10AM-10PM It`s a very popular outdoor bath. Located behind Yumoto Station.

Ten-zan Notemburo ,000/personOpen 9AM-11PM Many indoor and outdoor baths. To get there take the free shuttle bus from thebridge near Yumoto Station.

"Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, less than 100 kilometers from Tokyo. Famous for hot springs, outdoor activities, natural beauty and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji, Hakone is one of the most popular destinations among Japanese and international tourists looking for a break from Tokyo."

"Yumoto, at the entrance to the Hakone area near Odawara, is Hakone's most famous hot spring with a particularly long history, high quality water and numerous baths and inns. But many more hot spring baths can be found in the valleys and mountains of Hakone and at the shores of Lake Ashi."

Other Things to See & Do in Hakone

Chokoku no Mori Bijutsukan (Hakone Open Air Museum)

Even if you are not that interested in art, you should consider seeing this museum. The Picasso exhibit alone is worth the price of admission. I wish I had been the first to think of using a bicycle seat for art! Damn! It exhibitssculpture by Western artists including: Picasso, Arp, Rodin, Noguchi, Moore and Giacometti. There are alsodisplays of Japanese paintings inside. How to Take a Hot Springs Bath Hakone Odawara Living, in the Shadow of Mount Fuji

Picture of Hakone by Norikazu Yamaguchi

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