Living in Odawara & Minamiashigara

Two Very Typical but beautiful, Cities in Japan

Basic Information about Living Here
& A Guide to Local Clubs and Helpful Websites and Phone Numbers

by Kevin R. Burns

This information is geared towards people already living in this great port city, or planning to come here to live and work.

Just where is Odawara you may be wondering, and where do they get those fantastic umeboshi from? Odawara is a city of 200,000 located near the Izu Penninsula in south-west Kanagawa Prefecture. We are one hour south of Yokohama by regular express train and 80 minutes south of Tokyo via the Odakyu line. The umeboshi are pickled plums in English, and if you love salty food, you have to try them. There are ;lum trees throughout the area and there is a plum festival celebrating this bounty in February. Odawara is also famous for kamaboko a kind of fish version of spam that many Japanese love. We have a fantastic castle with a moat, and cherry trees. You really should see it if you come to Japan.. We also boast the largest shopping centre in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Minamiashigara Views

Minami Ashigara, borders Odawara and has about 44,000 citizens. All Japanese older than 4 know that Kintaro a famous fairy tale took place here. Minami Ashigara was voted as having the best water in Japan, and that is why Fuji Film chose this small city to make its` film (a water intensive process), and Asahi Beer built its` latest high tech brewery in our city. We are located in a pleasant river valley of rice fields, businesses and fantastic views of Mount Fuji.

Banking: Sagami Tribank is a good, reliable bank if you can find one near you. I have dealt with them for over a decade with no problems. They seem to have avoided many of the pitfalls that put larger banks under. The drawback of the Minami Ashigara branches are that there are virtually no English speaking staff. I have never met any, but there may be some. Some of my friends have used Citibank. With Citibank all banking can be done by phone in English including exchanging Yen to $ when the $ is low. Some friends say they are not so good however. Charge for many things.

Beautiful Minamiashigara Hike

Although Citibarnk branches are only in Tokyo and Yokohama, you can open an account by mail. You can also get a
credit card that gives you Northwest Airlines air miles. Otherwise Daichi Kangyo in Odawara is good because they have some English speaking staff and a cash machine. It is located across from the fish market and has a red and white sign. The Bank of Yokohama near Odawara Station seems to be a good bank as well. Take it for what it is worth. I am not an expert on Japanese banking by any means.

I also use the Bank of Yokohama. There staff is very helpful. At Japanese banks, getting a check cashed from abroad is nearly impossible. In fact I`ve never been able to do it despite countless tries.

Internet: There are internet cafes in Odawara but they come and go, so it is best to check at The Odawara Bulletin Board to see
where they currently exist. You can get good service from various webservers in our area. I use So-Net–a Sony company, as
it is cheaper than many for basic service. There is virtually no English support though apart from a very limited webpage.
One plus with so-net is you can pay by automatic withdrawl with a credit card. I hate having to go and pay at the bank every month. I have never been overcharged.

The countryside around Odawara & Minamiashigara is beautiful!

Pat-net is good but expensive. They are not as foreigner friendly as So-net. Only one member of the staff seems to understand any English and his English is quite limited. They do not seem interested in getting or keeping the business of the expatriat population of the area. You can do better with So-net or some of the others. So-net seems to have support in English by Email, but one of our teachers had trouble when he tried to get English support over the phone, the woman who called him back only spoke Japanese. OCN comes highly rated but I have never used them. I don’t know if they have support in English.

I don`t recommend OCN based on the fact that so many of my friends have had trouble getting hooked up–software conflicts and other problems. With so-net my wife was able to get things working by calling their service department and of course solving the problem while speaking Japanese.

Yahoo BB is good, plus you can call home for a discounted rate with their phone service. I like their
service so far. I have now switched to Yahoo BB from So-net.

Buying a Computer:

Currently you can buy a very good computer in the Odawara area for around 80,000 Yen. Nojima is a good place to buy a computer cheaply and there are many Nojima stores in the area. Prices have dropped by about 80 percent from five years ago! I recently picked up an Emachine computer in Akihabara without a monitor for 52,000 Yen! It is the best computer we own and it was a great deal !
Do a search at google for Dell Japan. They sell some great computers I am told.

Japanese Lessons:

If you work for Kevin`s English Schools we offer free Japanese lessons to you! There are also free Japanese lessons offered at the Odawara Christian Centre.

The Odawara International Club offers Japanese lessons as well. Learn Japanese offers free lessons online. You can advertise for a Japanese teacher at The Odawara Bulletin Board .

English Newspapers & Magazines:
Japan Living: This is owned and edited by yours truly so please check us out! Japan Living Forum

Japan Today and News on Japan are two of my favourites. They are both online and of course they are free. I like them because they both have a lot of articles you would never get to read anywhere else. The journalists for Japan Today seem to be independents. That means they work outside the press club system, which serves to stymie hopes for a free press here.

Often what you will read at Japan Today will not be found anywhere else . If you do read it anywhere else, it will often be months later, after the government has decided that they have to allow that news to be released by the major dailies. News on Japan is a compilation of news about Japan from news sources based around the world. It is great for it`s variety from independent zines in Japan all the way to CNN and BBC.

The Japan Times is probably the best English newspaper–and the most pricey! It is famous for its` employment section which is
usually published on Monday. You can find it and other English newspapers like the Daily Yomiuri, at newsstands in front of
Shin Matsuda and Odawara Station.

The Tokyo Jounal has many opinionated articles about life in Japan as well as event information.

Sports & Exercise:

There are various yoga classes throughout Odawara and Minamiashigara. Linda Gould of Riverside Yoga teaches yoga in Japanese and English in Hadano. She is a great teacher!

Minami Ashigara Sports Centre is only a 25 minute walk from Tsukahara School. It has a small workout area, a running track, a pool, tennis courts, a soccer field, many gyms, aikido, karate, shorenji kempo and judo classes. There are also many sports clubs in the area. You can check with Odawara City Hall and Minami Ashigara City Hall to obtain a list of all the clubs.

There is an extensive magazine in Japanese that lists all the clubs–not only sports clubs but art and everything else in between. There are literally hundreds of clubs. The OHA plays street and inline hockey the third Sunday of every month! They also host some hockey tournaments.

Odawara Arena has a brand-new fully equipped weight room and the price for use is very cheap! Basicly you name the sport and you can pretty well play it here. Okay, so you can’t luge! I’m very sorry about that! As mentioned above, the Odawara Arena has a great weight room as well as other facilities including basketball leagues and badminton to name a few. Exercise your brain material:

Chess Japan has members in the Odawara area. If you like boardgames like Risk, Axis and Allies or Civilization to name a few you might be interested in joining JIGG, the largest bilingual boardgames and RPG club in Japan.

Telephone:

Keep in mind that in Japan you are charged for all phone calls based upon how far away the listener is and how long you talk. The longer you talk the more you pay. In view of this, many people rely on email here, much more than back home. If you want to call friends and relatives back home it is good to set up your own callback service account.

There are many callback services available. Another newer and probably better idea is to get an internet phone account with Yahoo or another provider. You wiill probably need a Japanese friend to look into that for you, to find the best deal for you, as these services are always changing. My understanding is that this is a good deal if you are going to phone your country of origin often. If you aren`t it isn`t necessary.

Bookstores:

Epo in Odawara not only has a huge selection of Cds, it also carries some English books on the same floor.

Of course you always have Amazon.Com (which also has a Japanese branch), but if you want to go to an actual store there is Good Day Books near Ebisu Station on the Yamanote line in Tokyo. They carry Tokyo’s largest selection of used English books. They also sell new books.

Blue Parrot Books near Takadanobaba Station in Tokyo is also a good used book store.

Kinokuniya near Shinjuku Station East Exit has almost the whole 6th floor devoted to new English books.

As well: Tower Records near Shibuya Station, Jena in Ginza: 5-6-1 Ginza, Chuo Ku, 03-3571-2980.
Best area for used books: “The Kanda district near Jimbocho Station has many bookstores on either side of the station for 300 metres. Kitazawa Shoten is probably the best. Kitazawa Shoten: 2-5 Jimbocho, Kanda, Chiyoda Ku, 03-3263-0011.Best store for Japanese textbooks: Bojinsha: Kojimachi New Yahiko Bldg. 2Fl, 6-2 Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku 03-3239-8673. Caravan Used Book Store in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Bookoff also in Tokyo, sells used books at cheap prices but have a limited selection. You should go there for the used CDs. There is a Bookoff in Machida, check their homepage for the exact location. Bookstores in Japan–a huge list of stores and directions.Kanda Book Town.

Want to donate English books? Send them to: Kevin`s English Schools Library, 2659-4 Tsukahara, Minami Ashigara Shi, Kanagawa Ken 250-0117 Japan. Your books will be read by students and teachers. Any English book in used or new condition will be greatly appreciated! We also donate on to other places. So your book will be read somewhere.

At the Odawara library there may be a few English books. The large new library in Kamonomiya, Odawara doesn`t have any English books.
Which is a pity as Odawara claims to want to be more international.
I think actions speak louder than words though. They really should stock more English books and books in other languages at the Odawara libraries and at the Odawara International Lounge.

Hadano Public Library has many English books and it is just down the Odakyu Line from Odawara–about 15-20 minutes on the train if that, from Odawara Station. The big public library near Machida Station on the Odakyu line has many English books and magazines. They also love English book donations! So donate your books before you head back to your home country or when you are finished reading some of your books.

The public library near Hon-Atsugi Station has some English books and videos that you can watch for free right in the library!

The Canadian Embassy has a 15,000 book library free for the public to use. Check the Townpage telephone directory for more. British Council 1-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku 03-3235-8031 Open Mon-Fri,

American Centre: 2-6-3 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo Mon-Fri, 03-3436-0901 Only Japanese can take books out but anyone can go there to read. Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library has 90,000 foreign books! It is adjacent to Arisugawa Park in Hiroo. Open everyday. 03-3442-8451.

The Odawara Christian Centre has a great library–located near Odawara Station near the Shinkansen exit.

The Odawara International Lounge offers English newspapers, free Japanese lessons, magazines and some books. You can go there to meet people too. Donate some books to them! They may appreciate it.

Foreign Food:

Tozan in Odawara across from McDonald’s near Odawara Station has some foreign food. As well, you can order foreign food from FBC–The Foreign Buyers Club. Foreign Buyers Club Website and they must be listed in The Townpage as well.

Tengu Natural Foods has a huge selection of organic food, and they also have a website. Most Japanese supermarkets also carry some foreign food. The Fuji Supa across the street from Tsukahara School carries a little foreign food, as does Uni located near Daiyuzan Station, near
Kevin`s Eikaiwa School.

Expat Express sells food from home too and you don’t need to buy it in bulk! The supermarket in Kanagawa’s largest shopping mall, Robinson’s has a lot of foreign food.

Robinsons and Odawara City Mall, a sister mall right next to it, are both located in Kamonomiya. Best to take a bus from Kamonomiya Station on the Tokaido Line.

It is a great place to shop if you want clothes, food or have children. The best stores and shopping areas in our area are reviewed
in The Odawara Bulletin Board.

Western Food Restaurants

: As well as McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken there are many great European restaurants sprinkled around Odawara and Minami Ashigara Shi. Cafe Natural in Shimosoga is one of my favourites. You will need to go by car. For more on local places to eat and drink read our
Odawara Restaurant Guide which has ratings and reviews of many of our local restaurants.

As it is near where the Plum Festival takes place, it might be a nice place to eat if you go to the festival. The interior is also relaxing rustic wooden tables and chairs. There are many great Italian restaurants in
Odawara. Best to ask your students or friends where to go. Caprichosa near Midori Cho Station on the Daiyuzan line is very good and reasonable. They also have a friendly, lively staff. There is another nice Italian restaurant, called Trottori in the Welmi Centre near Daiyuzan Station in Minami Ashigara. It is on the first floor in the same building as McDonald’s. You must enter from the street side.

For Pizza lovers,
Pizza La and Pizza Hut will deliver just like back home. As well as the great tasting pizza that you are familiar with, you can try
exotic types like the Idaho Potato Pizza and Pizzas covered in variouskinds of low level sea life. I don’t recommend the sea
life pizzas myself. I usually go for Italian Basil. Pizza La 73-8900. For Sushi 0465-70-3066. The Odawara Bulletin Board has up to date reviews
of some of the local eatieries.

No Smoke Tokyo lists non-smoking restaurants and bars in Tokyo. Tokyo of course boasts perhaps the
most restaurants in one city. You will never be able to try all the fantastic restaurants there. Check out The Tokyo Journal for a great listing of Tokyo’s gastronomic offerings.

Medical & Dental Care and Medical Insurance:

Most expatriots usually get Japanese National Health insurance. This usually covers 70% of your medical bills including the cost of medicine. It also covers 70% of dental care. There are many competent doctors and hospitals in our area. As well if you would like medical care in English you can go to The Tokyo Medical and Surgical Clinic: #32 Mori Bldg., 3-4-30 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku, Tokyo Tel. 03- 3436-3028 Their whole staff speaks English and they offer pretty well every medical service you could imagine. There is also a dental clinic with an English speaking staff as well. There are many competent dentists in our area too, but you may wish to go to Tokyo as the local dentists tend to take a long time to complete the dental work ie) for a filling you may need to go back 3 or 4 times to have the job completed instead of the normal one day visit in Canada. As you might expect, the medical equipment here is perhaps the most advanced in the world.

Dr. Amagai is an English speaking dermatologist at Keio University Hospital in Tokyo 03-3353-1211. There are many good doctors in our area and a few speak a little English. Shiritsu Hospital in the Isaida area of Odawara is very famous. Two of my children were born there in fact. We didn’t have our third there though as their policy on smoking in the hospital allowed the smoking room right next to the maternity ward. So smoke wafted into the pediatric area and the maternity area, for all the pregnant mothers and newborn babies to enjoy. I wrote a protest letter and we had our third child at Kami Hospital in Matsuda. The new wing is also good but the old wing made the national news as some newborn babies became very sick. The old wing is extremely dirty. One door even had a hole in the window. The staff however was great. So you be the judge. If we were to have a fourth a child, God forbid! We wouldn’t have her or him there though.

Shopping:

Ito Yokado is a large shopping centre in one large store, it is in the Kamonomiya area of Odawara. There is free parking. There is a supermarket on the first floor and 2nd-4th floor house various goods including clothing, toys, jewelry etc. The brand new City Mall has many stores including Toys are Us. It seems to be the most popular place to shop. It is also located in the Kamonomiya area. Along that whole street the shopping is fairly interesting with many little stores, and boutiques. If you get hungry, Mr Donut is nearby.

Finally, Epo near Odawara Station, and the shopping street where Epo is located is a popular place to browse, and go out for lunch or dinner. The Robinson’s Imperial Mall is just like home as well! It is the biggest shopping mall in Kanagawa and it is a stone’s throw from the City Mall and Ito Yokado. When you are in Kamonomiya, just ask someone where it is. It boasts all your favourite stores including the Gap and other famous names. Robinson’s Shopping Mall in Kamonomiya, Odawara, is a sister shopping mall to Odawara City Mall–they are linked by walkways. It is the largest shopping mall in Kanagawa! It’s great especially if you want clothes. The Outlet Mall in Gotemba about 45 minutes drive from here is very famous. It is supposed to be cheaper and sell great clothes. Gotemba area is also very picturesque, much like the Abbottsford area of British Columbia–if you know that area.

Flea Markets:

Merry Lue Store in Tsukahara, Minami Ashigara has a flea market and sells antiques. It is open every day except Monday: 10:30AM-7:30PM. See the map below for how to get to Merry Lue. Kevin’s Tsukahara School is in the same building.

Entertainment:

The Minami Ashigara Cultural Centre and it’s counterpart in Odawara host various events. Odawara Arena has basketball, and at times sumo. Watch sweaty fat men fall yah! There is also triple A level baseball played at Kamifunaka Park. It is also a nice park to walk around in. Once a year during the winter Odawara hosts the Daimyo Gyoritsu which is a big parade of people in period costume. You can see what the Samurai looked like and perhaps watch an archery contest. This takes place around Odawara Castle. Ask your students about the exact date of this event. Check The Odawara Bulletin Board for event information. The Odawara Jazz Festival is a big event and quite famous.

The Odawara Plum Festival:

Is held from Feb. 1st-28th. You can see the beautiful plum blossoms at Soga Plum Woods in Odawara. There will be 30,000 plum trees in full bloom! Take your camera! The plum woods spread out from the foot of Odawara Castle and it offers a view of Mount Fuji. Soga is also the site of one of the three most famous vendettas in Japan involving the Soga brothers and contains many historic sites. During the festival, there will be local performing arts demonstrations, including the Odawara chochin (lantern) dance. For those less culturally inclined you can take part in the plum pit spitting contest! Be sure to take some tissue with you! When you tire of spitting you might enjoy trying some of Odawara’s famous ume-boshi (pickled plum) at the concours. Site: Soga Plum Woods. Access: Shimo-Soga Station (located within the plum woods) on the JR Gotemba Line. For further details call Odawara-shi Kanko Kyokai 0465-22-5002. I imagine someone will speak English at this number. Note you don’t go to the castle you must start from Shimo-Soga Station.

Some More Resources for our Area:

The Odawara Christian Centre: 0465-34-2438(English), 34-2796 (Japanese) Tues-Fri. 9AM-5PM). They hold church services in English and Japanese. They also offer free Japanese classes for foreigners. Community Counseling in English is offered in Yokohama, for inquiries call Scott Smith at 03-3968-4084. Free confidential telephone counseling at 03-3968-4099.

Thinking about Teaching Here? Get the scoop on the English Conversation Profession or Eikaiwa at How to teach English in Japan.

The Odawara Hockey Association Do you love hockey? Then join us forstreet or inline hockey (on roller blades). We usually play on the weekends. Children welcome too! We also play road hockey and go to watch hockey games sometimes in Yokohama. Our group is
very family oriented. The kids and the grown ups play together.

The Odawara International Lounge: 0465-24-7760, 15-19, 1 Chome Sakaecho,Odawara. Sakaecho Parking Lot, third floor. Located next to the Odawara Post Office. It is in the nicest parkade you will ever find, built to look like an old Japanese building.

In this very comfortable lounge, you will find magazines and newspapers in English. Any foreigner can come and use the facilities here for free. The aim of the lounge is to provide useful information to foreign residents and for supporting activities of international volunteer groups and international exchange activities. It really deserves more use and publicity. A nice place to relax.

Grognards Japan: We play traditional games like chess, shogi, and Go. As well we play boardgames about history, politics and economics. Some of the games we play are known commonly as wargames. If you are interested in playing these types of games contact them. Most members speak Japanese and English. If you can’t speak English that’s okay.

Odawara International Friendship Association:0465-33-1707, Japanese class: 24-5649. A great website with a lot of information about the city. Maybe the best! It even has a clickable map of the downtown area.

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1 Comment

  1. Cecilia said,

    July 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    I am not sure if anyone can help me, I am looking for long time friend, her name is Kiroko Suzuki, married to Soichiro Kubota. We follow a course of English at Georgetown University in Washington DC. The last news I have is that they were living in Mukaida Apt, Minamiashingara, Kanagawa. If anyone knows about her please please I will appreciate it. Thanks in advance. My name is Cecilia, my email is: jivief@hotmail.com


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