I am Bushi! Become a Samurai Warlord at Odawara Castle in Kanagawa
Have you ever hankered for a samurai armor?
Or even dreamed of wearing one yourself?
There is a place where you can make such a dream come true in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. I would like to share with you my experience of visiting Odawara Castle and disguising myself as a samurai.
Stately and Impressive Odawara Castle!
Odawara Castle had been known as an impregnable fortress which survived attacks by famous feudal warlords such as Kenshin Uesugi and Shingen Takeda until the Hojo Clan, who possessed the castle, was finally defeated in the Siege of Odawara by Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
The castle has recently been restored to the dignity of its old days after going under a great repair construction and is widely known as a great historic site which reckons visitors to feudal Japan. Here at the exhibition room inside the castle, you can see a samurai sword from around the 12th – 14th century and a samurai armor bodyguard, which had been handed down in the Hojo Clan.
Let’s Become a Samurai!
Samurai armor, ninja costume and Japanese traditional women’s robe can be rented at Odawara Castle Information Center located in the Honmaru Square of Odawara Castle. Look for the signboard in the photo to find the entrance.
After paying the rental fee of 300 yen at the entrance, now it is time to prepare yourself to become a samurai. There are also options to choose ninja or feudal princess costume. But I went for samurai.
Leave your valuables in a free locker and choose a suit of armor and helmet you like from those on the shelves. The helmet I chose had the “three scale (mittsu uroko)” crest of the Hojo Clan on the forehead. Another helmet which caught my attention had a crescent shaped front crest. It is the helmet of Shingen Takeda, the famous feudal warlord known as “the Tiger of Echigo.”
First, you wear leg guards. I could wear them easily with quick and efficient help from the staff.
Next, you wear a bodyguard. A non-Japanese gentleman was curiously looking at the way I was transformed into a samurai and decided to make an application to rent a costume himself. I actually saw him try both samurai armor and ninja costume one after another. He looked really happy and satisfied with such a rare and precious experience.
Be a Samurai Warrior and Take to the Field!
It takes about 10 minutes to wear all the armor items and become a samurai. The actual full suit of armor with a helmet is said to weigh more than 20 kilograms but the one you can rent here is just about 4 to 5 kilograms. As you walk with the armor and the helmet on however, even those replicas feel quite heavy and you can imagine how much physical and mental training samurai had to have back then to fight in battles wearing much heavier armors and risking their lives.
Outside the rental office is a special photography spot. Standing in front of the long panel in the photo, you will be able to take a perfect photo with Odawara Castle in the background. Whether renting a costume or not, anyone can take a photo here. It is a highly recommendable photo spot.
Carried away a bit in the armor, I tried a pose with one of my hands on the sword. The sword is fixed so that it cannot be pulled out but I enjoyed trying all kinds of different poses with the sword.
The photo shows a closeup of the “three scale (mittsu uroko)” crest on the forehead of the helmet.
Great Tourist Spot Packed with Fun and Historical Experiences
Be it a Taiga Drama TV program or historical novel, samurai is an indispensable element in Japanese history. Some samurais lost battles and were sent into the darkness of history while others remained victorious and survived the turbulent times. Japanese people are known around the world for their politeness but that is probably a trait inherited from samurais.
If you have already visited typical tourist spots around Japan and want to seek something extra, why not visit Odawara and transform yourself as a samurai? It would be a great opportunity for you to have a genuinely Japanese experience and turn your thoughts to the history of Japan. Information: Map