Friday afternoon, I met up with Sonia to visit the Odawara Castle Gardens. Odawara is near Hakone and about an hour train ride from Zushi station. Here was our route on the train.

We arrived at Odawara Station in the early afternoon. I wanted to visit this area because I heard about the beautiful hydrangeas on the hillside of the castle. We passed so many hydrangeas on our walk from the station to the castle. Hydrangeas are everywhere this time of year. They are so beautiful!

At the Odawara Castle Garden, we were also greeted by irises. They were planted in the marsh area in front of the hydrangeas on the hillside. I was overwhelmed with all the beautiful flowers!

Check out these hydrangeas! I used my hand to give you scale perspective. They were ginormous!

We took time to take our “modeling” photos. Not sure I make the best model during rainy season. I feel like I’m a constant ball of sweatiness. Sonia, on the other hand, is flawless. Regardless, it’s totally worth it for the beautiful flowers.

A few more pictures of the hillside. It’s so hard to pick a favorite color. Is it ok if I just love them all, together?

There were actually two gardens connected by a little passageway underneath a vermilion bridge. Because every garden in Japan should have a vermilion bridge.

What I’m not sure I captured in my photos were the number of people also visiting the garden in the heat of Friday afternoon. That is one thing I love about the Japanese culture. They embrace and take time to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds them. As we continued to walk around the garden, we spied an art exhibit.

We walked over to investigate. It looked like art painted on some sort of waterproof canvas. Each were so unique.

Irises, hydrangeas, and art. What a great day. What more could we want? Oh, right! The Odawara Castle.

We didn’t actually visit the castle, we have both seen plenty of Japanese castles and were more interested in the flowers. It was however, fun to people watch. There was a group who rented outfits.

Also, a man made Castle reflecting pond. Everyone wanted a picture of the castle reflection!

By the time we finished walking through the garden, we were ready for lunch. We stopped at restaurant that served sushi and tempura. We both had the lunch set. It was a combination of both sushi and tempura.

After lunch, we headed back to the train station. We passed over another vermilion bridge and enjoyed seeing the koi.

Unfortunately, I led us to the wrong train and we ended up going 10 minutes in the wrong direction. No big deal. We hopped to the other track and enjoyed the coastal view while we waited for our train.

One last little story. If you ever wonder about the safety in Japan, please know, it’s extremely safe (7th safest country in the world). As we were waiting for the train to take us back in the correct direction, we watched a group of young kids. They seemed to be elementary aged. Maybe first-third grade. There was no adult around watching them. Although this picture shows them all huddled together, prior to this, they were running around, talking and just being kids. But, they were kids who weren’t caring about their safety. They were happy to be going home from school on a Friday afternoon. They were just kids, being kids.

The world needs more kids being happy. And flowers.