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Thoughts on Odawara

I owe a lot to Odawara. For one thing, my earliest childhood memory is of the sea seen from the window of the Shonan train, running on the old Tokaido line from Atami to Odawara.When we came out of the twin tunnels, there was the vast Pacific, extending away to a sharp horizon line that snapped my eyes wide open. In that moment I also awoke to the fact that I was me, and that I was here on this earth.

I am fond of asking “What if…” about history. What if the Tokugawa shogunate had selected Odawara as its base of power instead of Edo? When the Tokugawa clan moved to the Kanto region around 1600 after the downfall of Odawara Castle at the hands of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590, it seems that Odawara, formerly the seat of power of Kanto’s most powerful and prominent clan, the Hojo clan, would have been the most attractive site for the Tokugawa shogunate’s own castle. However, the first shogun, Ieyasu, chose Edo, then just a sleepy hamlet, no doubt because he wanted a clean slate for urban development. I am sure, however, that Odawara must have been a tempting option for Ieyasu, as there was already a magnificent castle there for the taking. If he had chosen it, today Odawara would be the capital of Japan, a thicket of skyscrapers rivaling Manhattan or Hong Kong, and what we call “Tokyo” would be nothing more than the middling, provincial bayside city of Edo. Personally, I am glad that Ieyasu made the decision he did. Had Odawara become the capital, its marvelous natural scenery would be utterly ruined, and I would not have had that primal encounter with the ocean as my first memory.

As if guided by an unseen hand, I was drawn to this place of memories. In a sprawling mikan citrus grove in Enoura, I established the Odawara Art Foundation with the aim of conveying the essence of Japanese culture to a wider audience. While Odawara was passed over in favor of Tokyo as the site of Japan’s capital, Odawara has the potential to be the capital of communication of our culture to the world. This is because the unique character of Japanese culture, a continuous legacy dating back to the prehistoric Jomon period, has been the art of living in harmony with nature. The Japanese people developed a unique culture incorporating the worship of myriad deities and spirits of the natural realm. In today’s grim world of rampant materialism and consumerism, when so much of this natural splendor has been destroyed, it is the revival of these ancient Japanese traditions that we need most.

Hiroshi Sugimoto
Founder, Odawara Art Foundation

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Interview on Enoura Observatory

Planning and composition; photography: Shin Suzuki
Director: Yo Kuwahara (Amana Inc.)
Producer: Kenjiro Akai (Amana Inc.)
Editor: Shin Suzuki and Yo Kuwahara (Amana Inc.)
Music: Taku Inoue
Sound: Makoto Kawame

Overview of Architectural Plan


Throughout human history, Art has embodied the pinnacle of our mental and spiritual evolution. When humans first became self-aware, Art captured this awakening in cave paintings. Later, Art went on to express the forms of the divine and the might of kings. Now, at a critical point in our evolution, Art has lost its onetime clarity of purpose. What should art today express? There is no simple answer to this question; what we can do is return to the wellspring of human consciousness, explore its sources, and chart the course it has followed thus far. This is the mission the Odawara Art Foundation proposed for itself in designing the Enoura Observatory.

Upon gaining self-awareness, the first thing our ancestors did was to try to identify their place within the vastness of universe. This search for meaning and identity was also the principal impulse behind Art. The winter solstice, when life is reborn; the summer solstice, when the pendulum of the seasons swings back again; the spring and autumn equinoxes, midpoints between extremes. I believe that if we return to our ancient habits of observing the heavens, we will find inklings that point the way to our future.

About the facility

The site is a hilly area covered with citrus trees in Enoura, in the Kataura district of Odawara, adjacent to Prefectural Route 740. Nestled against the outer rim of the Hakone Mountains and overlooking Sagami Bay, it has panoramic views extending to the Boso Peninsula and Oshima Island. The facility was envisioned by contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto as a forum for disseminating art and culture both within Japan and to the world, and comprises a gallery space, a noh stage, the revived Tensho-an tea ceremony room, the restored Muromachi Period (c. 1338-1573) Meigetsu Gate, a strolling garden, and offices.

From the early modern period onward, the Itabashi district and other areas of Odawara were home to groups of artisans with mastery of sophisticated techniques, which have been handed down continuously until the present day. The Enoura Complex will be constructed using these techniques and methods, which are growing increasingly difficult to preserve, and will feature a range of architectural styles from medieval to contemporary.

362-1 Enoura, Odawara, Kanagawa, Japan
Main purpose
Exhibition facility
Owned by
Odawara Art Foundation
Concept by
Hiroshi Sugimoto
Designed and supervised by
New Material Research Laboratory
Detailed design and contract administration by
Tomoyuki Sakakida Architect and Associates Co., Ltd.
Constructed by
Kajima Corporation
Special support by
Japan Society, NY