A wonderful time spent away from the city21 May, 2013 by Grace
Quickly approaching the end of our short holiday, we took a break from the city for once and headed to the beautiful island of Enoshima, located in Fujisawa City of Kanagawa. I was especially excited for this day because it was the most out-of-the-way place on our itinerary, and have seen photos posted of it from celebrities and friends.
Finding the machine to purchase the Enoshima 1-day Passport (popularly known as Enopass for short) at the complicated Shinjuku Station took us a while, and it was the first time we had to really bother with what “Local”, “Rapid Express” and etc meant, to make sure the train would stop where we needed it to.
We had to transfer lines at Fujisawa Station. When we got off I lost my bearings for a moment because the train car we were in stopped at the very end of the station, and it was just a long narrow platform with nothing that led to the center of the station.
The station was funny in that we didn’t have to go down or up any escalators but just kept walking in one direction until we saw the platform for the correct train. The train that travels the route to Katase-Enoshima caters to less people and thus is a pretty short train with just six cars. After a total travel time of a little over an hour, we finally reached Katase-Enoshima station.
The station is some distance from Enoshima Island itself, so I took the opportunity to snap some shots of the surroundings which were part of Fujisawa City. Before we actually headed to the island, we visited Enoshima Aquarium, which was nearby. This would be the only stop involving animals of any sort on our trip.
This was one of the instances where my broken Japanese skills helped when we were planning the trip. I did some researching on the Enopass in Japanese and realised the English website for the Enopass doesn’t state clearly the full extent of benefits at all. You can actually get 10% off your Enoshima Aquarium admission ticket by flashing your Enopass. (Some other benefits not stated in English are 10% off admission to Enoshima Island Spa, 50 yen off admission to the hall of Enoshima Jinja Shrine, and differing benefits at most shops and restaurants on the island. Check with the shops themselves if they are Enopass partners and what they offer.)
We purchased our aquarium tickets pretty quickly, on account of it being in the morning and there being not much of a queue. We given a pamphlet, together with a schedule sheet for the dolphin show. It was every one hour and we happened to enter at one of the starting times.
Not wanting to wait for the next show, we quickly headed for it. It was perhaps not the best decision, seeing how it was positioned at the end of the route through the entire aquarium. We essentially spoiled ourselves by passing by everything and we’d have to backtrack later.
After the dolphin show, we went back into the main part of the aquarium to look at the creatures in the tanks.
Done taking photos and admiring the sea creatures, we were ready to leave. Because we backtracked the entire route, we were back at the entrance when we finished seeing everything. I thought we’d have to walk all the way through again because they had a designated entrance and exit in the aquarium, but luckily we were allowed to leave through the entrance. This might differ on a peak hour maybe.
Walking from the aquarium to the island took us about 20 minutes. There’s a very long bridge into the island, which you can bypass if you take a cheap boat ride from the start of the bridge, directly to Iwaya Caves at the far end of the island. Since that didn’t gel with our sightseeing itinerary, we just went ahead with walking.
We might have succumbed to the boat ride had it been summer, but it was cold as usual. I guess I would recommend coming here during spring or fall because of the perfect weather for walking. It lets you soak in the atmosphere and is more enjoyable than sweating or freezing on a boat ride.
Upon arrival of the island, we headed for Tobiccho, the most famous restaurant on the island that serves the area’s speciality shirasu (white bait). In fact, they have two branches alone on this relatively small island. Although already anticipating a queue, I was still dismayed to find that there were about 20 other groups waiting, at 10 minutes to noon.
Thankfully, there’s a queue ticket system in place, and here again my broken Japanese came into use. I managed to get a queue ticket for three from the machine pretty quickly, and could understand that the waiting time was approximately 40 minutes. The ticket system lets people have the freedom to walk around and come back later instead of just queueing there, so we moved on.
While we were at the shrine area, we got caught in some television programme filming. There was a camera crew that I didn’t notice at first, but a lady came up to Etine and I, explaining in Japanese that they were from TV Tokyo and would like us to walk through the Chi-no-wa (a giant ring in front of the shrine used for purification) and then pray to the shrine. She added that our faces won’t be shown. I translated this to Etine and she was fine with it so we said okay.
Both of us found the whole thing kind of amusing. We both threw coins into the offering box, clapped our hands together and bowed to the shrine, but later on we found out neither of us prayed for real or wished for anything, since we don’t believe in these things.
We returned to the restaurant after 30 minutes just in case, and we sat at the waiting area, which I would say takes up quite an amount of shop space. The actual dining area is on the second floor, and the first floor is just a waiting area, ingredients stock room and the washroom. I couldn’t tell if the kitchen was downstairs or upstairs though.
One of the staff members specially stands at the store front to confirm if the dining groups due to go in soon are around, and calls out the numbers on the queue tickets. At first we didn’t know that and embarrassingly thought it was our turn to go in. After another 15 minutes or so, we finally get seated.
Having read online that Tobiccho has an English menu, we asked for it. Although we saw around us that the size of the portions were really huge, we went ahead and ordered for ourselves anyway.
Since I’ve not tried other restaurants around the area before I can’t say that it’s the best, but the shirasu was tasty and mixing in the half-boiled egg made the entire thing so good. Etine said she found the food a little disappointing but it could also be because she doesn’t exactly like seafood besides salmon.
Anyway, all three of us couldn’t finish our food. Well, I finished all the seafood and rice without touching the vegetables (which I hate). We were feeling kind of bad since in Japan they really really mind whether people finish the food. Etine’s mum apologised to the waitress who cleared our plates, saying that the food was good but we were too full. The waitress smiled and said it was all right.
Continuing our adventures through the island, we made our way to Samuel Cocking Garden, where the Enoshima Seacandle (the island’s observatory) is located. Since we had the Enopass, we took the Escar, which are escalators that cuts a bit of the amount of climbing you have to do. It only goes up though, so when coming back down you’ll have to take the stairs. If you don’t have the Enopass you’ll have to pay a separate fee to use the Escars on the island.
The flowers in the garden were indeed pretty but it wasn’t really my thing to spend too much time admiring flowers that don’t belong to me. The main attraction here is really the Seacandle anyway. Etine and her mum enjoyed the greenery though.
It was just a short walk before we got to the observatory. It seems that you can choose to climb the stairs up but we took the elevator. The spiralling stairs in the center of the tower would no doubt make you a bit giddy. It’s also not the safest stairs, the steps are a bit small and you could easily drop something through the railings and kiss goodbye to it.
The lift takes you to the glass-enclosed observatory area, away from all elements of weather. However, the star of the show is undoubtedly the top open-air deck, which you have to climb some stairs to get to. With the good weather on this day, it was really nice to take photos from the deck.
After happily spending time on the Seacandle, we made our way back down. There are quite a lot of vending machines around, so we grabbed a bench and a drink to rest for a while and enjoy the atmosphere. While Etine’s mum continued to rest on the bench, Etine and I walked around the ground floor of the Seacandle, where there was a goods shop and a heritage archive room. Looking around the goods shop didn’t yield any results, and the heritage archive was really small so we didn’t hang around long.
When we got back to the bench, we learnt that some other elderly ladies who had been sitting on the same bench, nearly got attacked by crows for the food she was eating. Looking up, we realised quite a few crows hang around here waiting to pounce on people for food, so this was probably not the best place to rest.
The sky was starting to dim a little, so we made for the Iwaya Caves, which was at the far end of the island. It was quite a walk to get there and there was a LOT of stairs. We were tired but I was the worst off. I literally don’t do any exercise and I guess the aches from the past days all caught up at once, as my knees started hurting really badly. But because it was about an hour before the caves closed at 6pm, I didn’t stop to rest.
There weren’t really a lot of things I wanted to take photos of in the cave to be honest. There were little statues around, but I was more excited just being in an actual cave, with head room so low you have to bend down half the time. And, while the top part of these low ‘ceilings’ are kind of covered up in soft felt, there’s still the occasional drip of water, so these combination of elements made it not a good idea to take photos. It was so dark in the cave, it affected the shutter speed and most photos turned out blur anyway.
We spent a little less than an hour in the cave, before finally coming out to daylight again. By the way, while we were there, the Iwaya Caves was celebrating its 20th anniversary, and so was handing out for free little “power stones” to visitors. You could pick between rose quartz, citrine, tiger’s eye and amethyst.
Finally pulling ourselves away from the beautiful coast near the caves, we walked back. Along the way, the staff of some shops we passed by would say “otsukaresama”, knowing that those who walked all the way to the cave would be tired. Wanting to catch a bit of a breather, we stopped by a senbei shop, ate some senbei and grabbed a drink from the vending machines, and sat down to rest.
After this short break, we headed back to Katase-Enoshima station to catch the super long ride back to Shinjuku where we would have dinner. We found an udon shop in one of the underground malls, and ate there. You could tell the udon was hand-chopped because of the inconsistency in width, but it was very delicious and springy.
Feeling satisfied as ever, we took the train again back to Shin-Okubo to end our long day and retire for the night. All in all, albeit tiring, the trip to Enoshima was very refreshing and fulfilling.
Would recommend Enoshima to anyone going to Japan, except for those who have problems walking a lot. Also, since it’s not in the city, there are less people who can speak and less signs in English. While not necessary, knowing a bit of Japanese could help if you want to visit the area.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.