The next morning, our hosts took us to see the Odawara Castle on our way to the Odawara train station where we will catch the shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. We parked down in the left hand corner of the map on the right and then followed the green path to the castle donjon and then on to the station.

We came in by way of the South gate. We were fortunate to grab the last parking spot before the lot closed.

Take note of the wooden torii gate arching over the entrance which indicates this is a Shinto shrine.

There were hundreds of kindergarteners touring the castle as well. Without exception, they all wore red jumpers with different colored caps to denote the class. Here, we had to stop for a few minutes while class photos were taken.

Once again, we purchased fortunes. Mine was merely good, but Jennifer's was very, very bad. But, once again, we're offered a way to cancel the fortune by placing it into a chamber on that stand behind Jennifer. Notice the zigzag paper strips (shime) used to sanctify the cursed fortunes hanging from the beams.

Also note those cursed flag staffs <grin> that we must now carry with us for the rest of the trip.

The first Odawara castle was built around 1200 AD. Since then, it had been destroyed and rebuilt several times.

Pictured is the Odawara donjon, the principle structure of the castle. It is a reconstruction built in 1959 based on the original  design. Inside are displayed suits of Japanese armor, tools, weapons and the model from which this reconstruction is based. 

Photographs were not allowed in the donjon itself, but once I reached the upper balcony, I was allowed to take pictures of the surrounding area. Notice all the kindergarteners in the red jumpers.

After we finished our tour of the castle, we continued on to the Odawara train station. For our trip, we had purchased a 7 day rail pass for each of us which would allow unlimited use of the JR railroads, buses and ferries for the next week.

Non-passengers are not allowed on the train platform so our hosts purchased tickets for themselves so that they could see us off. The Japanese as a whole are the most helpful and courteous people I have ever met. Our host family had spared no expense or trouble to make our experience a priceless one. I know that without their help, our trip to Japan would not have been nearly as expansive or informative.

But for the next 7 days, we would be entirely on our own in this strange new world.