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Station #9:  Odawara was the first castle town after travelers left Edo.  We can see it in the distance, across the Sakawa River and nestled in the Hakone mountains.  Control of the castle was key to controling this major rice growing area.  The Japanese have a term, Odawara hyojo (hyogi), literally "Odawara conferene."  It's based on an historical event and refers to a long and fruitless discussion.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi (who helped unify Japan after years of civil war) sent to the Lord of Odawara castle a summons to surrender.  The Lord called together all of his lieutenants to confer with them concerning whether they should surrender or fight to the last.  For many days they discussed the matter but arrived at no decision.   Finally Hideyoshi, tired of waiting, attacked the castle and utterly destroyed it and its occupants.  Thus the term "Odawara conference" came to mean "an endless discussion resulting in nothing."\n\nImage Copyright: Minneapolis Institute of Art Odawara castle was destroyed in the 1870s when the shoguns lost power and the emperor was restored as the national leader.  The main tower of the castle was rebuilt in the 1960s with a museum inside.  A number of school groups were enjoying a morning visit when I arrived.  Historical trips like this are a regular part of the Japanese curriculum. After playing and eating lunch, the teachers gathered the children into their groups.  The blue hats and the red hats met here below the castle walls.  From the top of the tower, there is a magnificent 360 degree view of the city and surrounding area. Smile for the camera!  After several attempts to get the children to smile, the photographer waved a stuffed toy and everyone laughed.  Perfect photo!