Created in partnership with Igloo Japan
There’s a reason why Enoshima is a favourite among Japanese locals. The small island off the Shōnan coast of Kanagawa Prefecture, lies just one hour south of Tokyo and provides the perfect escape from bustling city life.
With centuries-old shrines and a stunning coastline, Enoshima is ideal for travellers wanting to be by the sea and uncover some amazing sites, foodie delights and cultural gems.
Getting there from Tokyo is an easy train ride on the Odakyu line which runs direct from Shinjuku Station to Katase-Enoshima Station. From there, it is just a ten-minute scenic walk across the Enoshima Benten-bashi bridge to the island.
At the entrance stands a symbolic torii gate leading up to the famous Enoshima Shrine, built initially in 552AD and home to Benzaiten, the goddess of music and entertainment. But first, you’ll have to meander through the narrow street of Benzaiten Nakamise-dori which is lined with shops and eateries tempting you to try their local treats.
While Enoshima’s shrines and shops are among the must-see attractions, they’re not the only places worth your time. A few other features of the island that make it feel that extra bit special is the beauty of the sea, views of Mount Fuji and the Jewel of Shonan.
The pearls of Enoshima: the fish, the sea and Mount Fuji
An Olympic treasure
This year Enoshima is set to attract more crowds than usual as it will host the sailing in the 2020 Olympic Games. Visitors will be able to watch the competitions from Enoshima Yacht Harbour while enjoying the beauty of the harbourside’s ocean promenade and white lighthouse.
Views of Mount Fuji
On a good day (sunny without clouds or fog) Enoshima is a perfect location to see Japan’s most iconic volcano. While you might be able to catch a glimpse of the volcano from various spots around the island, one of the best locations to soak up the view is from the observatory of the Enoshima Sea Candle. At 42 meters high, you can admire panoramic views of the Sagami Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and of course Mount Fuji. Alternatively, Chigogafuchi, a rocky place next to the Iwaya Caves, is just as beautiful for viewing Mount Fuji and the surrounding, picturesque landscape.
The food of Enoshima
While you’re spending the day in Enoshima, you can’t go past some of their local specialties. One of the most well-known dishes of the island is shirasu don – a dish with small pieces of fish, either raw or cooked, on top of a bowl of rice. It is a famous ancient Enoshima cuisine and one worth a try.
Perched just above the second Iwaya cave on Lover’s Hill is the Ryuren no kane (The Bell of the Dragon’s Love). It is known for the Japanese legend of the ‘maiden and the five head dragon’. The dragon, believed to live in the sea, fell in love with a maiden of Enoshima and adjusted his bad habits to be with her. Now, legend has it that couples who come to the Bell of Ryuren and ring it together are never to break-up. It is also common for couples to write their names on a padlock and attach it to the fence surrounding the bell.
The Jewel of Shonan: Enoshima’s spectacular winter illumination
One of Enoshima’s most spectacular sights is its annual winter illumination, the Jewel of Shonan, which runs from late November to mid-February.
The illuminations are located inside the Samuel Cocking Garden at the very centre of the island. You’ll need a ticket to get in but these can easily be purchased for 200 yen (A$2.90) at the entrance, where the striking array of coloured tulips will tempt you in.
Then at 5:30pm, the famed illumination begins and the garden transforms into a glowing enchanted forest, lit up by thousands of fairy lights. A tunnel of purple LED lights adorned with bright objects hanging from the ceiling, guides you to the dazzling Sea Candle and other illuminated spaces along the way. One of these exits leads to another magical garden where fairy lights illuminate everything from the ground to the treetops.
Do take the chance to head up to the open observation deck of the Sea Candle as the 360-degree views from above will make this whimsical display feel all the more spectacular.
While the best parts of the display lie within Samuel Cocking Garden, the illumination also stretches across several smaller parks which can be viewed free of charge. Either way, witnessing the island blossom at night is a great way to end a day of exploring.
If the winter illumination doesn’t fall on your travel dates, keep an eye out for other festivals taking place on the Island. This could be the Enoshima Flower Festa from mid-April to early June or the Enoshima Lantern Festival in August.
Enoshima one-day pass:
If visitors desire, they can purchase a one-day pass, called the ENO=Pass for 1000 yen which covers the entrance fees to the Samuel Cocking Garden, the Observatory Enoshima Sea Candle and the Iwaya Caves. It also permits you to use the escalators (operating from 9:00am till 7:05pm), saving you from some of the steep climbs while you explore.