This blue island in the middle of the ocean is one of the best getaways from Tokyo21 May, 2014 by Chad
After much anticipation we would be heading over to Enoshima today. It was over to Shinjuku once again, picking up a 1 day Enoshima Passport from the tourist counter there. For 1,970 yen, the “enopass” includes a return trip from Shinjuku to Enoshima, entry to the main attractions on the island, as well as use of the island escalators. It’s a much better deal than the combined Kamakura-Enoshima pass that we got previously since its hardly possible to cover both in one day. Would definitely recommend it to those looking for a convenient getaway from the city.
We’d be joined again by Allan this morning, while Chisaki would opt out. Unfortunately, being out late the past few days meant that we wouldn’t be able to get everyone together until quite late. This meant that it would be past 1 PM by the time we’d reached Enoshima proper. Was really hoping to pay Enoshima Aquarium a visit as recommended by Grace, but it looks like would have to give it a miss this time.
The weather wouldn’t agree with us either. It’d end up raining for most of the day, making for some gloomy weather. Couldn’t see far off the coast either, but we wouldn’t let the weather get us down. Amazingly, there were some folk surfing along the Kamakura coast even in this single digit temperature.
It would seem that nothing would quite agree with us this Thursday. Since the most of the shops around the island ended up being closed too. To be fair it was the day after Christmas. It wasn’t a public holiday a Japan, but I guess all of the couples (which make up Enoshima’s primary audience) were still recovering from last night’s faire l’amour. The only others on the island apart from us this afternoon were elderly folk.
The famous senbei shop along the first street was closed for the day. The rest would pick up some manju along the way up towards the main shrine. There wasn’t much to see here at the entrance with all the other shops being closed, so we pressed onwards uphill towards the first shrine building.
While the rest led ahead, pointed out that we actually could had used the escalator scattered around the front of the island since it was included in our tickets. Above the longest climb on the island was Hetsunomiya, the grandest of the 3 shrines on Enoshima. Had visited here last year and gotten a good fortune. We didn’t get any fortunes this time but did wash some money at the dragon pool beside and offer some donations.
Past the sizeable shrine grounds was another climb up towards the central part of the island. This time we took the escalator up. There’s actually a station per escalator and they stamp your pass each time you take one of the islands escalators, meaning that you’re only able to take each escalator up once. The “Enoshima Escar” pass is targeted mainly towards the island’s elderly visitors and costs 300 yen usually (and is thus hardly worth it), but comes basically free with the Enopass.
The central area of the island is home to some cafes, a lookout point and the entrance to the island’s tower park. Will make a return later in the evening for the Enoshima Candle tower, but in the meantime we’d stop for a short break and a little bit of shelter. The rest stop here also sold the flattened seafood senbei crackers. Randy picked up a prawn one from the store since he didn’t eat octopus. Not sure if its because of the store but the serving here was meager. I would advise visitors to stick to getting octopus senbei from the famous store at the front of the island.
The drizzle subsided, and we pressed onwards towards the back of the island. There were even less people around here today with most of the stores being closed. We found a bunch of goldfish in a flower pot outside one of the closed bars, hopefully someone was feeding them.
Peeking over the cliffs, the many fishermen that were perched along the shore during low tide were notably missing. 3 little kids were playing some hopping game along one of the many long flights of stairs while their mothers waited patiently.
The road forked off into a garden along the edge of the island, a shrine dedicated to Enoshima’s dragon and the rest of the island. We followed a family uphill towards the forested part of the cliff where the island’s Lovers Bell was located. Couples would write their names on locks and ring the bell here. A whole bunch of them were hooked up to the fence by the sea. These love locks are particularly popular in East Asian countries like Japan, Korea and China. The modern practice was conjured up Europe less than a decade ago, but has since been brought over and popularized in various media.
The garden was hardly kept well, though it could just be the time of the year. If anything, there’s a really good view of the ocean from the bell. After spending some time at the bell, while Gage took some selfies (Enoshima actually provides camera stands around the island for you to take photos with), we continued deeper into island.
It was well past lunch time. There were just a couple of restaurants open today. After climbing down the flight of stairs, we decided to climb back up and go with the restaurant above. Coincidentally, this was the same restaurant from my last visit, and Randy even chose to sit at the same table.
Enoshima, being by the sea, had wonderful seafood. Gage and I got the grilled squid set, which each came with a amazing full sized specimen grilled in butter. Was awesomely one of the better meals this trip. Randy went with the raw shirasu set while Allan got some katsudon.
By the time we were done with lunch it was starting to get late. Fortunately the end of the island was located just below the restaurant. A few steeps flights of stairs down and we were at the rocky shore at the back of the island.
The tide was low enough to walk along the rocky shore. No fishermen here today though. Spent a good amount of time here admiring the view, before heading all the way to the end of the island for the Iwaya Caves.
While it usually costs 500 yen, entrance to Enoshima’s Iwaya Caves are included with the pass so no separate tickets are needed. It seems the caves had received some highly unnecessary updates since the last visit. There were LED lights along the entrance now and an augmented reality projection of fish that responded to movements in the pond where Yosano Akiko’s tablet was displayed.
The Iwaya caves are split into two parts. Rain water seeped through the smaller first cave where the shrine was located, so no lights were installed here. Instead candle sticks were passed out (each with a different Enoshima figure stamped on it). As with many other womb like tunnels around Japan, the cave and shrine here is dedicated to Benzaiten. Legend goes that the cave is connected to the Narusawa ice cave at Fuji and that you can occasionally feel a cold breeze coming from the shrine.
A bridge over the shore connects the first cave to a further second one dedicated to Enoshima’s dragon. During low tide, there’s a famous rock here along the shore that looks like a turtle.
The second is larger but less impressive than the first. While the first cave preserved most of the original interior from hundreds of years ago, this second cave had been the victim of many cave ins before, and has been redeveloped completely. It houses a modern and rather tacky statue of Gozuryu, which is replaced every few years. The current setup has a taiko drum which causes the dragon to roar when you hit the drum and there’s also a stand to take selfies here.
The escalators on the island are only one way so it was a tiring climb back to the central area. It wasn’t long till sundown so it was as good as any time to visit the Samuel Cocking Garden and the Enoshima Sea Candle. The rest of Enoshima’s visitors were also crowded around the entrance, though it seemed that they were waiting for actual sundown before entering.
The flowers were in bloom this time in the garden. There were also some decorations for the holidays. Checked out the souvenir store there while the rest headed to the restroom, but there wasn’t anything of particular interest. Just the usual stationery and knick knacks for Enoshima and the aquarium. Even the souvenir coin designs here were too disappointing to buy, making Enoshima’s tower one of the few I’ve visited where I don’t have one of their medallions.
The Enoshima Sea Candle itself is one of the more beautiful towers though. It is rather tiny by comparison to most towers, but is located at the topmost point in Enoshima well above sea level allowing for a 360 view of Enoshima, Kamakura’s coast and the surrounding ocean. The sea candle gets its name from it serving mainly as a light house. When the sun set, the light house’s lamp lit up and began rotating. Didn’t stay long enough for sundown the last time was at Enoshima, so this was something new.
Special seasonal illuminations had been set up on the tower, park and even outside along free the central area of the island. It was quite a sight, especially the tower being fully lighted. No LEDs were spared in covering every part of the park with lights.
The crowds started arriving after the lights came on. Most of the local folk were mainly here for the illuminations, since they were able to see the tower any time. Quite a few families and a good many couples such that the rest started to get disinterested and hurried through. A little bit of deja vu of Christmas Day itself as before knew it, the rest were out of the park. Sadly, wouldn’t get to try the waffle cafe that missed here last trip (it only accepted cash and we didn’t have any on hand then), perhaps the only other new experience that I was looking forward to today other than the aquarium.
So off we went back to Tokyo. Reached Shinjuku early so suggested that we take the opportunity to do some required shopping but Allan wanted to go eat instead. It was much too early for dinner though so managed to convince the rest to pay one of the malls a visit to do some necessary shopping.
We visited 0101 mens where Randy and I managed to pick up some much needed gloves for the upcoming days in Nagano. There was a holiday sale going on so they were discounted. After, the rest didn’t have any ideas so we ended up visiting the nearby Tengu Izakaya for the usuals. Taste wise, the food there is great as always, and we were served by a cute waitress called Yabe, the servings have shrunk a bit though.
The rest of the shops were well closed by the time we were done with dinner for anything else and we were much too tired anyways. It’d be quite a while before we could retire at our hotel on the other side of Tokyo. After the long day, some much needed rest was due in preparation of the day ahead. We’d be waking up early tomorrow to visit Tama Zoo, Japan’s largest zoo, on the western outskirts of Tokyo.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.