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Odawara Golden Week Matsuri PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 June 2004
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Odawara Golden Week Matsuri
Page 2

Located in the southwestern part of the Kanto Plains (zoom in to see the Odawara castle), Odawara has a long and fascinating history dating back to the Jomon period. For a while it played an important political role while ruled by the Hojo family during the 12th century

Odawara played an important role on the major trading route called the Tokkaido.  The Tokaido(東海道)ran from Edo (Old Tokyo) to Osaka,  and Odawara was a post-town that sat at the foot of Hakone where the Tokkaido began a long, steep climb up and over the range of mountains here. No wheeled vehicles could pass this route and only the very wealthy could afford horses to carry them up the mountain.  Acting as a post-town and preventing unauthorized travel along the route, the town boasted a large number of inns and entertainment for travelers. Two of those inns were still in operation as of 2001.

Today, Odawara depends on tourism and small industries. It's population stands at about 200,000 compared to the approximate size of 12,500 at the end of the Edo Period in 1870 or so.   


Being the gateway to Hakone, a mountainous area famous for its hot springs, the tourist industry plays an important part in the city's economy. The feudal history of the city is a source of pride for the city. The city government works hard to use both to provide festivals and events in the city that attract peole from across Japan but especially from the Kanto region where more than  40 million people live. The Golden Week Festival is one of these.

The following article describes my visit to this year's festival (2006).   

One year ago I rode my bike through Odawara on my way to Western Izu. As I passed through, it became obvious that a festival was well underway. So this year I went to Odawara during Golden Week to observe the Festivities.

I won't bore you with the details of the bike trip other than to say I rode down the Sakai River to Enoshima and then rode along the Shonan beach until I reached Route 1 and took that into Odawara, a total trip of about 75 kilometers one way.

On the way in to Odawara, a couple dressed up for the festival saw me and the lady shouted hi and gave me a thumbs up as I rode by. That is one of the reasons why I ride the recumbent bike that I do. It attracts attention and opens up a lot of opportunity for talking with people. I needed to purchase a flash unit for my camera and went to the Station area for that reason. From there I went to an older part of Odawara where some booths had been set up for the children.  Image
  Odawara Omatsuri Festival Truck

About 500 meters from here I came across the truck shown on the left and a group of men dressed up for the festival. I stopped and took a lot of pictures but unfortunately I lost them through a stupid mistake. But fortunately a few remained and I was especially happy that the one shown below of a gentleman and his mother did not dissappear along with the rest. 

The picture below is of a Mr. Sugiyama and his mother. He was participating with the other men and was kind enough to take some time out of the activities to explain some of the details of the Matsuri to me. Since Odawara is located on the ocean, fishing has historically played an important role in the local economy. Whereas the Tokyo Matsuri with which I am most acquainted, is related to agriculture, Odawara Matsuri is related to fishing. Looking at the truck, you can see the heavy ropes (lines for sailors) hanging from the front ot it. 

Mr. Sugiyama went on to explain that the song-like chant that was made as each home way visited by the Omikoshi was based on the chant that was used by the fishermen as they drew their nets out of the ocean. I noticed an Omikoshi coming up the street. The Omikoshi did not visit every home or office. I found out the reason for this later in the day, but when they arrive in front of one, the men carrying the Omikoshi make a 90 degree turn to face the front of the Omikoshi towards the place being visited whenever physically possible. Sometimes the entrance way would be too narrow to do so. In such a case, the best possible angle was taken..   Mr. Sugiyama and his Mother

Before going too much further into this story, it would be proper for me to explain somewhat about the Omikoshi. The Omikoshi is a portable shrine in which the god of the particular area is enshrined once a year and taken about the locality in which he resides. He visits homes to which he is carried by the carriers of the Omikoshi. (Although I refer to the god as a he, the he may be a she so you can take your pick as to whichever you choose.) The god is introduced to some, but not all residents in the nieghborhood. Residents that have had someone pass away during the year are not visited. 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 May 2006 )