Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fun on Sacred Shores 2: An Enoshima Travel Guide.

Continued from Part 1.

At the top of this elevator, the next spot is Nakatsunomiya Shrine of the Enoshima Shrine.  This shrine was the original, built on top of the island enshrining the goddess, Ichikishimahime.  It was rebuilt in 1689 and remodeled in 1996. [1]  

Nakatsunomiya Shrine

Some of the wood carving details on the shrine.  The carvings on this one are much more intricate than the previous shrine.

More detail from the shrine, this time of the dragon which is the common motif on the island.

A little bit further up the path is the Samuel Cocking Garden and the Lighthouse at the summit of the island.  If it seems strange that an island based so much on the traditional and native Shinto religion would have a garden with a foreign name, you'd probably be correct.  The history of the development of this garden is certainly a surprising one.  First for the story of the person who the garden is named after.  Samuel Cocking was a British merchant who was able to enter Japan in 1869, right after the Meiji Restoration that allowed for much more foreign interaction than the previous Edo Era; which was relatively isolated until Admiral Perry opened up Japan in 1854.  Making a fortune in the selling of herbs, Samuel Cocking bought the land on Enoshima through his wife's name and built a garden and huge greenhouse there, being novel for Japan at the time. [2]  Why this land was for sale is an entirely different story.

Japan ending its period of relative isolation was only one of the many changes that happened in Japan after the Meiji Restoration.  Another major one was the 'Abolish the Buddha. Destroy Sakyamuni' policy instituted after the restoration.  Shinto became the official religion to Japan following the Meiji Restoration (possibly to help somewhat re-legitimatize the Emperor's control of Japan at the time).  Enoshima would have gained popularity at this time, but the many Buddhist buildings on the island at this time were destroyed and sold off. [3]  This sale from the abolishment of Buddhism from the island was what allowed Samuel Cocking to purchase the land in the first place.  Even the Benten statues that were popular and famous on the island previously, were discarded at this time and almost destroyed, losing much of the original craftsmanship. [4] 

The garden entrance and lighthouse in the background.

Some pictures from inside the garden.

Besides the variety of flower and plants that make up the garden, there is also a variety of historic structures and modern internationalism in the garden.  The historic being the remains of the garden from Samuel Cocking's time.  He had built a large greenhouse at the time, considered to be the largest in the East, but was destroyed in the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and currently is considered to be the only brick greenhouse to be excavated. [5]  

In terms of the international, the garden now has themed areas for the 5 sister cities of Fujisawa.  These include themed areas for: Matsumoto City, Japan, Miami Beach, USA, Boryeong City, Korea, Windsor City, Canada and Kunming City, China. [6]  The Kunming City garden section gave the best impression with its traditional gazebo being beautiful and providing a peacock statue as well.  

The traditional Gazebo from Kunming.

Inside the Gazebo.

We had our lunch sitting in the Gazebo.  One of the better spots for Bento on the island.

The peacock statue in the same garden area.

At the end of the garden is also a rebuilt observation tower / lighthouse.  It's 59.8 meters high and 119.6 meters above sea level. [7]  The trip to the top gives a great view of the whole island as well as a variety of places around Japan.  On a clear day (most likely in winter at this point), you can get an excellent view of Mt. Fuji from here.

A view from the top back towards the main land.

Even on a not so clear day you can see Yokohama and it's Landmark Tower.

After the garden, there is one more escalator to head up on the island.  The last of the 3 Enoshima Shrines is here.  Here is Okutsunomiya Shrine, which has the Tagirihime Goddess.  However, this shrine is the sanctuary of the goddesses during the summer.  The shrine gate ceiling also has the Happo Nirami no Kame (八方睨みの亀, はっぽうにらみのかめ), or painting of "A Turtle Glaring in all Directions."  A painting by Hoichi Sakai who was a famous Edo period artist. [8]  The painting's fame stemming from the turtle appearing to stare directly at you no matter from where below you are looking at it.

Okutsunomiya Shrine.

When under the painting, give it a try and move around while looking at the turtle.  Its eyes will follow you around to the point it feels like it's creepily staring through you soul.

The other interesting building at the shrine complex.

Near this shrine and a bit a ways off the main path is one of the more interesting cultural places on the island of Enoshima.  There's a grass path that leads up and over a small hill.  With a fine look of the ocean from this clearing on the hill is a bell, the Ryuren no Kane (龍恋の鐘, りゅれんのかね).  The 'Bell of Dragon's Love' is based on the legend of the goddess and the five-headed dragon's love that created the island years ago.  The significance of the bell to travelers of the island is that a couple ringing the bell together will have their relationship last forever. [9]


The plaque explaining the legend of Enoshima and this bell.

The most interesting part of this area are the many locks found locked to the guardrail surrounding this bell.   Much like the ema I talked about last time, these locks represent a wish for a lasting relationship.  Couples buy the locks, write their names on them and then lock them to the fences here, wishing and representing their commitment to making their love last forever.

Returning back to the main path, the path now starts the descent to the back part of the island.  This section has many steep steps down and then one would have to climb these steps to get back from the back of the island so it's definitely not the easy walk the first half of the island was.  The back of the island has the Iwaya Caves where the legend of Enoshima originates from and access to the rocky shores of the island on this side.

Before getting too far is the Saifuku-ji or Enoshima Daishi.  Established in May 5th, 2003, it is the only Buddhist temple to return to the island since the 'Abolish the Buddha. Destroy Sakyamuni' policy of the Meiji Era. [10]
The temple is part of the Shingon sect, with their famous temple at Kōya Mountain.  Daishi means great teacher, referring to the founder Kūkai (空海, くうかい) who received the posthumous name Kōbō Daishi. [11]

After the temple and right before the descent are a number of restaurants.   This is a lantern from one of them depicting the 5 headed dragon in the legend of Enoshima and Mt. Fuji below it.

At the bottom is access to the rocky coasts that are on this side of the island.

Going past here is the entrance to the caves.  

There are two caves here: the first one being 45 meters long and then branching into two, with the left side being 20 meters and the right side being 39 meters long and the second being further along and not as deep into the island.  In the cave are various sculptures, mainly from the Shingon sect of Buddhism as well as the three goddesses originally enshrined in the caves on the right and the sun goddess Amaterasu on the left. [12]

One of the sculptures in the cave.  The cave at most spots is pretty narrow, dark and damp.  At the beginning you're given a candle to help light your way through the caves.

One of the goddesses enshrined at the back of the cave.

The second cave having a sculpture of a dragon or the guardian diety of fishermen. [13]

From the caves, you basically take the same path back to the beginning of the island.  Before heading back up, here is a place to get a good look at the Tombi (とんび) or the local black kite (bird of prey) that are everywhere on the island.  As soon as you get off the train station you can see them flying above, but near the caves there seems to be a lot of them flying about.

Taking the steps this time back to the beginning.

After a full day of walking and exploring, we were pretty hungry by the time we reached the beginning again.  The path ending up back at the beginning again means the restaurants come to greet the returning tourists after their walk around the island.  Like most places in Japan, Enoshima has its own meibutsu (名物, めいぶつ) or speciality.  Here the speciality is Shirasu (白子, しらす), the young of sardines or whitebait.  The common way of serving it is Shirasu-don (白子丼, しらすどん) which is shirasu served over a bowl of rice.  

So we went to one of the places that sells shirasu on the island.  If you are entering the island from the bridge, it's the first building on the left on the main path.  Below is an outdoor seafood market of sorts and the restaurant is on the second floor.  This restaurant is worth it just for the view, which has large windows and being on the second floor and at the front of the walkway has an unimpeded view of the coast. 

View from our seats at the restaurant.

(July 16th, 2011):

The first time we went, we got the boiled shirasu-don as the raw shirasu-don was sold out.  This last time, we got one of each to compare.  The raw shirasu-don looks like this:

It was a little more bland and not as good in my opinion as the boiled shirasu-don:

The boiled shirasu-don takes a really pleasant sweet flavor and really doesn't have much of a fish taste.  The raw shirasu had leek and ginger, while the boiled shirasu had some type of shrimp and ginger.

Enoshima also has a few local beers to try.  The first being Enoshima Beer, which had a bitter taste, but the beer itself wasn't very strong nor had any other taste either making it just a mild but unpleasant beer to drink.  Basically there are better choices to be had than this one.

Enoshima beer that I had the first time I had Shirasu in Enoshima.

(July 16th, 2011):

The second beer being Shirasu Beer.  Wait, the FISH?!?  Yes, the fish.  Somehow they a.) decided it would be a good idea and b.) figured out a way to add some of the flavor to the beer in a safe manner.  As I'm sure most people could guess, it was not very good.  Really something to be only tried on a dare or a pique of curiosity (my reason with most things, but especially beer).  However, now that I've made the sacrifice for everyone and can let you know how it is, it's something to be only tried as a dare now.  I guess the best I can say for it is it could have been a lot worse and was actually a little bit better tasting in the middle (or maybe that was me somehow getting used to it). It was a bit painful to drink and should give notice to future beer-makers that mixing exotic flavors just sometimes isn't a good idea.  While the Enoshima beer left a lot to be desired, if you can find Kamakura beer, which is another city's local beer near the island, their beer is quite good.  I haven't seen any of it on the island during my trips, but you might have better luck back on the main land near the island.

At night, the lighthouse is illuminated as most of the island closes except for some of the restaurants in the front of the island.

On the bridge to head back home.  Also the last of my lower quality photos from my old camera.

(July 16th, 2011):

Seeing the sunset this second time around was much better than the illuminations we saw the first time, especially since it was the first time Mt. Fuji came into clear view.  

Mt. Fuji is all the way to the left on the horizon.

Unlike the first time, we stayed on the bridge to admire the view Enoshima had to offer.  The appearance of Fuji in the distance completing the landscape, we stayed until it had become to dark to see.


1. "Enoshima Tourist Map," Fujisawa, Kanagawa: Fujisawa City Tourist Association, 2009.

2. "Enoshima Jinja Shrine," A New Guide to Kamakura.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. "Enoshima Observation Lighthouse Samuel Cocking Garden," Fujisawa, Kanagawa: Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden, 2009.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. "Enoshima Tourist Map," Fujisawa City Tourist Assocation.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. "Enoshima Jinja Shrine," A New Guide to Kamakura.

12. Ibid.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fun on Sacred Shores: An Enoshima Travel Guide

I have now been to Enoshima twice.  On September 19th, 2010 and July 16th, 2011.  My decision to go was based on the recommendation of a friend here, as I didn't know about the place before then.  In fact, Enoshima wasn't in either of the guide books that I own.  I wanted to try and make this a travel guide along with the usual travel adventure, as I've really enjoyed Enoshima both times I've went.  While there's plenty of more famous sites in Japan, if you happen to be spending a lot of time in Tokyo and want to do something a little different, then a trip to Enoshima could be just that.  As July 16th was the shorter trip, I will designate the events I saw during that trip.  Everything not marked you can assume happened on September 19th.

Enoshima is a little over an hour train ride from Tokyo.  The train drops you off at Katase-Enoshima on the main land side a few hundred meters from the bridge to the island.  The train station's facade is designed to resemble the mythical castle of Ryūgū-jō, which is the castle of the sea dragon god Ryūjin.  The building is equal parts interesting, pleasing and out of place with the rest of the architecture in the area.  However with the mythology behind it matching much of the mythology of the dragon in Enoshima's mythology it makes sense.

Katase-Enoshima Station

Further to the left from the first picture, where tickets can be purchased.

(July 16th, 2011):
Another option is while taking the Odakyū line from Shinjuku, get off at Fujisawa station and switch to the Enoden.  The Enoden is a quaint street-car / train line that goes from Fujisawa to Enoshima and Kamakura giving nice views of the shore and shore towns along the way.  At Shinjuku, you can get the Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass that covers the round trip from Shinjuku to Fujisawa and unlimited use of the Enoden for 1,430 yen; a discount over paying everything separately even if you only take the Enoden once.  A better discount if planning to see Kamakura and Enoshima in the same day, which is what we did.  The Enoden is a little slower and its Enoshima station a little farther away, but the view and atmosphere are much better.

Enoshima as seen from the Enoden.

The view as the Enoden passes through the small towns along the way.

From the train station, it's just a walk over a long bridge crossing a river to the underpass that leads to the bridge to Enoshima.

There's a few of these signs along the way, so it's easy to find from the station.

Before going to the underpass and the bridge to the island, do yourself a favor and buy the Enoshima pass at the visitor center right next to the underpass entrance.  It costs 1,000 yen, but will save you a great deal more than that if you plan on doing everything.  Especially since we learned it provides discounts and savings on more than what we heard at the visitor center.  The pass covers admission to the caves, lighthouse, admission to the gardens and the use of the escalators on the island.  The cost of these separately already makes the pass a discount, but the pass also covers the admission to the Benten shrine which holds the famous sculpture of Enoshima (150 yen) and provides a 10% discount to some of the restaurants on the island, making it a really good deal to get.

Enoshima from the start of the bridge to the island.

These days, crossing into Enoshima is a far different endeavor than what it used to be if you remember from the previous entry.  A permanent bridge has been made to connect Enoshima to the main island, with space for walking and driving.  Cars are now able to get to the island and park on the modern yacht docks.  I was surprised to see the large amounts of people enjoying the beach under the bridge; grills, beach chairs and even hammocks tied between the girders sprawled out under the bridge.  While approaching the island, many images of the dragon famous in the lore tied to Enoshima line the bridge and along the island coast.

There are 2 of these dragon lanterns flanking the beginning of the walkway part of the bridge to Enoshima.

The bridge leads up to the main part of the island.  The outcropping of buildings hosting the seemingly endless supply of restaurants and souvenir (おみやげ, omiyage) shops effectively wall in the path to the torii.  This island being a spiritual one has the sacred gate marking the entrance to the whole island.

The main path into and around Enoshima island.

The first torii is a bronze one, last rebuilt in 1821 having nice wave decoration carved at the bottom of the torii. [1]

Past the first torii, a larger torii and interesting building stand before the climb up the island.  At this spot, you can look at the bustle from the path of shops where we just came from before making the climb up.  However, we wouldn't need to be climbing this time around as there are escalator stations placed around the island.  These escalators are in buildings just big enough to hold the escalator and the small ticket station at the bottom.  While an odd looking sight on an island filled with the traditional, it makes the trip around the island a lot easier.  At first, I was worried about missing something by taking the stairs, but the island only has the one main path and no escalator on the way down so we would have to take the stairs back down anyways.

In front of the second torii.

Through this building is the path for the stairway up the island.  Left of here is the escalator.

The restaurants, souvenir shops and crowds back at the beginning.

The first escalator drops us off at the beginning of the Enoshima Shrine (江ノ島神社, えのしまじんじゃ, Enoshima-Jinja).  Immediately to the right is a pond with a dragon statue in the middle.  The water is filled with coins resembling a wishing well, but this is one of the many variety of rituals that one might find at a Shinto shrine.  This ritual is for cleaning the spirit and involves taking a small coin, placing it in one of the small baskets that are left on the edge and washing it in the water and then tossing it into the pond.  Shrines in Japan have a large range of rituals that can be done in order to receive everything from good luck, fortune and wishes, to healing, cleansing, protection and more.

Here is the pond.  You can see all of the coins at the bottom.

Right next to the pond is the first shrine of Enoshima Shrine.  Enoshima Shrine actually contains 3 separate shrines scattered around the top of the island: Hetsunomiya, Nakatsunomiya and Okutsunomiya. [2]  According to legend, the 29th emperor, Kinmei (510-571) built a shrine in the caves below Enoshima and enshrined the 3 sea goddesses: Tagitsuhime, Ichikishimahime and Tagirihime to the island. [3]  However, this cave was often infiltrated by waves during storms, so in 853 the priest En-nin built the Nakatsunomiya shrine of Enoshima shrine to make a safer location for the enshrinement. [4]  While the original shrine, 2 more shrines have been built, now each enshrining one of the goddesses on the island.  The first shrine you come to is Hetsunomiya, the main shrine of Enoshima shrine and enshrining the goddess Tagitsuhime. [5]  This shrine was built in 1206 by the Buddhist monk Ryoshin, and rebuilt in 1276. [6]

The main shrine, Hetsunomiya.

Another view containing a purification ritual in front and people waiting to pray at the shrine.  

Right next to this shrine, is the hall that held what I wanted to see.  The Hoanden holds the images of Benten on Enoshima.  Since we didn't know about the discount with the Enoshima Pass at the time we both paid the 150 yen to go in.  The octagonal hall is actually very small, being no more than 10-15 feet in diameter, but what it holds more than makes up for its size.  Actually the rare image of Benten that I really wanted to see was to me, one of the least impressive things in the room.  I was more impressed with the older statue of Benzai-ten (Benten as well), the large bell with a dragon carved as the handle or the sculptures of the 15 servants to Benzai-ten.  The rarity of it being nude (which it normally isn't) must be the allure and going into the hall was worth it.  Unfortunately pictures weren't allowed inside, so I have nothing to show.

The Hoanden, which holds the images of Benten on the island.

The older Benten image was enshrined by Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), who if you remember from the previous post was the first ruler of the Kamakura Shogunate.  While enshrining, his prayer was for victory over his rivals, the Fujiwara clan and upon achieving victory in 1189, starting the Kamakura Shogunate the goddess became known for granting the wishes of worshipers and became known as Enoshima Benten ever since. [7]

The newer and more famous Benten was made famous by Iyeasu Tokugawa (1542-1616) the unifier of Japan and the first Shogun of the Edo period.  In 1600 he visited the Benten and made it an official prayer area for the Tokugawas. [8]  During this period, the Benten became more well-known for providing help for music and the arts and eventually became open to the public which it had only been for the important and powerful before then. [9]

Back outside I looked at the various items the shrine had for sale.  There are always a variety of charms and amulets for protection, fortunes and other items involving rituals selling at the shrines.  I however always look for the shrine's ema.  Ema (絵馬, えま) are a wish block, which is a small piece of wood with a small painting on the front relating to some aspect of the shrine and a blank back.  On the back people write their wish and hang it in the shrine in order for it to come true.  

A spot to hang ema at Enoshima.  At this one, the trees surrounded by the ema are seen as sacred and that as lovers, being two trees together so the ema here are usually for relationship wishes.

I never actually buy them to write the wish, as I like to keep them as my souvenir from places.  They're always nice and also pretty cheap for souvenirs (usually 500 yen, but the one I got at Enoshima was 1,000 yen due to its large size).  Then when I come home I hang them up.  In my very first post, I posted a picture of the ema hanging up on my wall.

Enoshima's ema showing the island, along with the dragon, Benten and some of Benten's servants.

Next to the Hoanden is the small Yasaka Shrine.

Starting from here, if you look for vantage points back towards the main land along the path  you are rewarded with some nice views.

At this point, there's another escalator to take that brings you up to the top of the island and then the path leads around to the back of the island.  Next time, I'll cover the rest of the island and the rest of my trip and travel guide to Enoshima.

Continue to Part 2.


1. "Enoshima Tourist Map," Fujisawa, Kanagawa: Fujisawa City Tourist Association, 2009.

2. Ibid.

3. "Enoshima Jinja Shrine," A New Guide to Kamakura.

4. Ibid.

5. "Enoshima Tourist Map," Fujisawa City Tourist Assocation.

6. Ibid.

7. "Enoshima Jinja Shrine," A New Guide to Kamakura.

8. Ibid.

9. "Enoshima Tourist Map," Fujisawa City Tourist Assocation.