Saturday, March 15, 2008

Odawara Castle

I'm getting pretty good at hopping trains, switching to different train lines, and actually finding my way back to Yokosuka where I am living.

It's the weekend again and time for me to get out and see Japan. I read about a castle in Odawara and, empowered by my growing train traveling skills, set-out to see the castle, it's nearby zoo, and to walk around the not-too-distant beach. Odawara, population 170,000, was a nice place to visit but I wouldn't characterize it as quaint.

Crossing the moat bridge, as I entered the castle grounds, now a park, I could hear traditional Japanese koto music. To my surprise, the music was issuing from an open area in the park where a samurai skill contest was in progress - this was by far my favorite experience of the day.

Japanese dressed as samurai warriors, galloping horses adorned with red and gold blankets and tassels, were racing at break-neck speed while shooting at bullseye targets off to their left side. All of this was happening with amped-up spectators rooting for their favorite samurai while soothing (but loud) traditional Japanese koto music blared through the PA system (see YouTube video and pics below).

I suppose the experience was heightened by the fact that it was totally unexpected.

Oh, I also stopped by a nearby flea market, also on the castle grounds, and examined some woodcrafts this carpenter was selling. He saw me examining some of his decorative wooden boxes (yes, I have been making my own and think I am an expert) and he exclaimed "5000 yen". I looked up, having heard him, and he immediately followed with a stream of Japanese language that I assume supported his 5000 yen selling price.

Hey I thought, I'm only examining these boxes for quality of craftsmanship so, in my best Japanese I said "I don't understand the Japanese language". The carpenter and his buddy got a pretty big horse laugh out of that - obviously I understood what 5000 yen meant. Oh well, it was a nice try at feigning ignorance - I think I'll choose my words more carefully the next time I try that dodge.

Anyway, here are some pics and a video I think you will enjoy. I recommend clicking on the pictures to get the LARGER image - I have scaled the large images down some so they shouldn't take so long to load.

Odawara Castle

Castle Gardern

Samurai Horseman Parading Ceremony

Samurai Horseman Preparing For Skills Contest

Samurai Horseman Preparing For Skills Contest

Samurai Horseman Not Always So Serious

Samurai Galloping Horseman - A Very Short Video


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