Tokyo Area Guide: Enoshima 江の島
Enoshima is a small island in Sagami Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture, conveniently linked to the mainland at Fujisawa by a 600m-long bridge with a long name - the Enoshimaohashi Enoshimabenten Bridge.
Enoshima is also nearby to the temples and gardens of Kamakura, so many people can combine the two places into a weekend or day trip. Just like Odaiba in Tokyo, Enoshima has become a hip place for youngsters to hang out, but there is plenty to do for visitors of all ages. First, a little history.
Enoshima is dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan (shichifukujin) and considered the 'patron saint' of wealth, music and entertainment. She is often depicted playing a Japanese lute or biwa.
Enoshima features in the Enoshima Engi, a chronicle of shrines on Enoshima written by the Buddhist monk Kokei in 1047 AD.
In 1880, in the early Meiji Period, the government enacted a law separating Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and temple land on the island became available to purchase. This anti-Buddhist policy (shinbutsu bunri) was driven by a disdain for the perceived 'foreignness' of Buddhism expressed in another slogan haibutsu kishaku (廃仏毀釈; "Abolish the Buddha; Destroy Sakyamuni").
A British-Australian businessman and horticulturist, Samuel Cocking (1845-1914) purchased much of this newly available land, through his Japanese wife, and built Japan's first green house and a botanical garden on the site that still bears his name.
The bridge linking Enoshima to the mainland was built over a sand spit in 1962 as part of the pre-Olympic construction boom. Enoshima was the Olympic harbor for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and will also host sailing and surfing events at the 2020 Olympics.
Enoshima Shrine, in the center of the island, is a well known shrine in Kanto. Enoshima Shrine contains a naked statue of Benzaiten, the goddess of music, wealth and entertainment, within an octagonal oratory, which is a rare sight. The figure was moved to the shrine from the Iwaya Caves on the south west coast of the island.
Enoshima Shrine was formerly a temple established in 1182 at the request of Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of the Kamakura shogunate.
As well as ordinary members of the public, the shrine draws celebrities, who come to pray for success in the entertainment industry.
Samuel Cocking Garden
The Samuel Cocking Garden is named after a British-Australian merchant (see above) who bought much of the island after the Meiji Restoration. The area features a pleasant botanical garden and the Enoshima Sea Candle tower, which can be ascended for an extra fee. The original green house on the site was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 but has been reconstructed. Samuel Cocking Garden is open from 9am to 8pm and located near Enoshima Shrine (Admission is 200 yen for the garden or 500 yen for the garden and Sea Candle observation tower).
The largely uninspiring Iwaya Caves on the south west coast can be visited. The first cave once contained the Benten statue now moved to Enoshima Shrine while the second cave is connected with the legend of the local dragon.
The Shingon-sect Enoshima Daishi is a modern temple constructed in 1993. Enoshima Daishi is the first temple to be built on Enoshima since the previous temples were removed during the Meiji Period.
The Love Bell
The Love Bell is a modern take on the legend of Benten's romance with the local dragon. Couples ring the bell and leave a lock with their names written on it attached to a fence.
Enoshima Aquarium is located on the mainland across the bridge. The aquarium is a fun destination, especially for kids. It's a large, modern aquarium which displays life found in the surrounding sea. There are regular shows, such as dolphin and seal performances.
Ryukoji Temple is also on the mainland side and was constructed on the site of the abandoned execution of Nichiren (1222-1282), who was supposedly saved by a bolt of lightning striking the executioner's sword. There is a small cave where Nichiren was supposedly kept and a Meiji Period five storied pagoda.
The main reason, for many people to visit Enoshima is, of course, for the beaches, which line the east and west of the island. There are also beaches on the mainland near the approach to Enoshima, and a few of these are patrolled by lifeguards.
As a result they are very popular with swimmers and surfers, so be sure to get here early before the crowds if coming at the weekend or on public holidays. Most beaches on Enoshima have rental facilities for things such as deck chairs and parasols.
There are often superb sunsets with views of Mt. Fuji in the background.
Enoshima Shopping & Dining
Enoshima has gained something of a reputation for gourmet dining and there are many places to try the signature Shirasudon - a donburi made with the tiny white shirasu fish caught in large numbers in Sagami Bay. The approach to Enoshima Shrine from the bridge is lined with souvenir stores, cafes and restaurants.
Access To Enoshima
You can access Enoshima by arriving at three different stations. These are Katase-Enoshima Terminus on the Odakyu Enoshima Line, Enoshima Station on the Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden), and Shonan-Enoshima Station on the Shonan Monorail.
To get to Enoshima from Tokyo, it's easiest to take the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station (around 70 minutes). Transfer at Fujisawa for a local train to Katase-Enoshima Station.
The Odakyu Railway Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass (1470 yen) includes the round trip train journey from Tokyo to Fujisawa on Odakyu Railways plus unlimited rides on Odakyu and Enoden services in the Kamakura/Enoshima area within one day.
By JR there are trains on the JR Tokaido Line from Tokyo Station or on the Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku Station to Fujisawa Station where you can change to the Enoden or Odakyu lines for Enoshima. If you alight at Ofuna Station you can ride the Shonan Monorail to Enoshima. The one-day Kamakura Enoshima Pass (700 yen), available at Ofuna Station, Fujisawa Station and Kamakura Station offers unlimited rides on the Shonan Monorail, Enoden and JR trains between the three stations.
The Enopass (1000 yen) is a combination ticket that includes admission to the Samuel Cocking Garden, observation tower, the Iwaya caves and use of the escalators. In addition, the Enopass offers reductions to enter the Benten Statue Museum, Enoshima Spa and Enoshima Aquarium.