Things to Do in Kanagawa Prefecture
Towering on a stone foundation on a green hillside, the impressive Odawara Castle, with its five stories and three-tiered roof, presides over a small grove of cherry trees that explode in pinks and whites come spring. Located an hour south of Tokyo and blocks from the sea in Hakone, the castle is perhaps the largest and best preserved example of a 15th-century Japanese fortress in the area.
Behind two large decorative gates— Umadashimon and Akaganemon—the castle complex spans multiple buildings and gardens while including moat-like pools on two sides of the property. An onsite museum, inside the main castle tower, features artifacts, armor and weapons, as well as details of the castle’s storied history; the top floor affords views of Sagami Bay and the surrounding city. The castle was the built by the Omori Clan before changing hands in a late 16th century siege. The Okubo family, appointed to live there, ruled Odawara through nearly the entire Edo period before the castle went out of use in 1870.
With a long history dating back to 1063, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is the most important Shinto shrine in Kamakura, and the spiritual and cultural heart of the city. Dedicated to Hachiman, the patron saint of samurais, the complex contains several shrines and museums, and is a popular venue for festivals, weddings, and other events.
In a beautiful setting by Lake Ashinoko in Hakone, the Narukawa Art Museum Art holds a collection of more than 4000 Japanese (nihonga) paintings. Literally meaning ‘Japanese-style painting’, nihonga art follows traditional Japanese artistic conventions, and more recently has expanded to incorporate Western-style techniques too.
This is a small museum, yet each exhibition room has plenty of room for visitors to appreciate the art. In addition, there’s an impressive observatory lounge (and cafe) providing simply stunning panoramic views over Lake Ashinoko and the floating torii gate of Hakone Shrine from its huge glass windows. What’s more, on a clear day, the views extend to reveal the mighty Mount Fuji in the background.
There’s also a pleasant garden at the site, and don’t miss the museum’s unusual collection of kaleidoscopes.
Stepping into the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum (sometimes written Shinyokohama Raumen Museum) is a bit like stepping back into the Japan of 1958, the year Japan’s first instant ramen was invented. A replicated street-scape features nine ramen shops serving noodle styles from various regions of Japan (and operated by some of the country’s most famous ramen restaurant chains); a mini-size option means visitors can sample and find their perfect bowl.
Upstairs from the street-scape visitors can learn about the history of Japan’s iconic dish, as well as the different types of noodles, broths and toppings each region uses to construct the ideal bowl. The ramen museum shop sells packaged ramen from throughout the country, bowls, chopsticks and other ramen utensils. At the My Ramen booth, guests create their own brand of Japanese noodle. A traditional sweet shop packs an additional 300 varieties of old-fashioned candy for dessert.
Located within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the Pola Museum of Art opened in September 2002. This is the former head of the Pola group’s private collection, which features more than 9500 works of art, including many from the French Impressionism and École de Paris eras.
The museum sits within a forest of 300 year-old beech trees and is predominantly made up of glass, creating a sense of seamlessness with the natural environment that surrounds it. In addition, a large part of the building is located underground. The museum’s permanent collection includes works by artists such as Cezanne, Monet, Picasso, and Renoir, plus there are also modern temporary exhibits, with sculptures, ceramics, and glassware alongside paintings by both Japanese and European artists.
A museum cafe and restaurant gives visitors a chance to relax beside huge windows that open out onto lush green forest, and there’s also a 670-meter nature trail for those who wish to explore the forest further.
Hakone’s Little Prince Museum is a fun destination for kids and all fans of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic storybook from the 1940s. The museum includes a reproduction of a French village, gardens, and displays relating to the French author’s life and work, as well as a good French restaurant and a gift shop.
Situated on a small island in Yokohama Bay just south of downtown, Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is a combination amusement park and aquarium — one of the most visited in the country.
The highlight of the park is its Aqua Museum, one of the largest marine life aquariums in Japan with more than 500 varieties of sea creatures spread throughout the three-floor structure. Between animal shows, guests can observe whale sharks, giant sea turtles, sea otters, dolphins and polar bears inside their recreated marine habitats. In Fureai Lagoon, guests can touch dolphins, beluga whales and walrus in a save environment.
Pleasure Land, the amusement park portion of Sea Paradise, features a sea coaster that swings out over the waters of Yokohama Bay, as well as a vertical drop tower, river raft ride and many of the usual carnival-style rides.
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