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Matsubara Shrine in Odawara

An ancient shinto shrine close to the historic castle

Many visitors to Odawara come to see the historic castle, especially around cherry-blossom time, but there are plenty of other reasons to come here.

A little way east of the castle, there are some ancient Buddhist temples and this shinto shrine, nice places to stroll around and take in the peaceful atmosphere: most visitors come only for the castle, so at these shrines and temples you'll generally see only a few locals.

At this shrine you can see the reverence for nature that's part of shinto worship: the gates, hall and side shrines stand side by side with the trees, which have been allowed to grow undisturbed, tall and straight. There's a small, still pond, stone statues of lions and a turtle, and one bright red gate that stands out from the simple, austere wooden buildings.

It's at places like this, where you see ordinary Japanese people coming to pray with their kids or their shopping, that you really get a feeling of the country's daily life.

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