The last of the sunlight as it washes over Enoshima’s Nishihama beach. Despite the late hour the beach was crowded, no doubt to see the exceptionally visible Mount Fuji. I seem to have knack for finding lost toy dinosaurs. This mecha dinosaur must surely be the offspring of this magnificent beast? There was a young lady doing ballet near the water, and as I walked out onto the breakwater pier a couple of kids came scrambling up from the rocks. A good ending to a perfect day.
This western beach near Enoshima island is even more popular than the eastern beach I blogged about earlier. Not least because it is connected to the grand Enoshima Aquarium, a must see for most people and especially for families.
Some of the best beaches around Tokyo are to be found near Enoshima to the south west of Tokyo. Considering that they are within an hour on the train from the biggest city in the world they are remarkably clean. There are two beaches near the island, the Nishihama and the Higashihama. In the 1964 the beach was used a venue for the yachting and visiting the beach became very popular. These days about a million people a year visit the beach.
I wasn’t the only one enjoying the spectacular sunset by taking a few photos, even one of the surfers had his camera out!
More photos from the interior of little Enoshima island off the coast of Kanagawa Prefecture! Having braved the stairs all the way up to the middle of the island there are even more things to see, souvenir shops, the third and final part of the Enoshima Shrine and a few small restaurants serving the “uminoie” food in the form of ramen, noodles, grilled seafood and shaved ice deserts. Usually uminoie are little beach huts or tiny restaurants set up on the beach during summer to serve drinks and light food to tourists but these restaurants are on top of the island. Some of them have fantastic views of the ocean though. There are plenty of vending machines on the way as well, one of which had a couple of mystery servings!
There is also the option of visiting the 60m tall observation tower in the middle of the Samuel Cooking botanical garden if you want even better views of the area. On this visit I was happy enough taking pictures of the tower rather than from the tower. There are combination tickets called “Enopass” for 1000 yen that includes the entrance fee for the garden, the tower, the ocean front caves and the escalators bringing visitors up to the top of the island comfortably (really recommended if you are not into walking or used to the hot summer weather). The Enopass is even more worthwhile if you also plan on visiting the other attractions around Enoshima, like the aquarium, as it gives a discount.
The third portion of Enoshima Shrine is called Okutsunomiya and well worth a quick visit. Do not miss the famous turtle painting in the roof of the prayer structure! There are quite a lot of things to discover in this part of the shrine so I won’t give away all of them. I couldn’t resist sharing a few massive fruits! The sign calls them “oniyuzu” (鬼柚子), or demon yuzu but they are more commonly known as shishiyuzu (獅子柚子) or lion yuzu, due to the resemblance to a lion or demons face. They are not actually related to yuzu at all, but more closely related to the pomelo fruits (a distant relative in the citrus fruit family). A shishiyuzu is about 5-6 times as big as a yuzu (and yuzu are already much larger than oranges). They are not good for eating raw but often used in marmalade or candied. The impressive look of the fruits also means that they are sometimes kept in shops to bring in big luck and they have been known to scare off demons and ghosts. This shopped sold them for only 200 yen each, very cheap but maybe it is because these weren’t very attractive? I would think they would be even more effective against evil spirits though! If you are lucky you can sometimes find these in very good green grocers for 700-1500 yen a piece, from December to February when they are in season.
The biggest tourist attraction on the picturesque Enoshima island on the Pacific Island coast is probably the Enoshima Shrine. The shrine is one of the big three Benzaiten shrines, the other two are in Lake Biwa and in Hiroshima. Benzaiten is an interesting goddess, in that she came to shinto via Chinese buddhism from her original indian hindu origins. She is the goddess of everything that flows, like music, water, eloquence, words and even knowledge. Since her home is traditionally on the island in the center of the world she is also associated with islands, hence all her three main shrines in Japan are located on islands. Actually the entire island is devoted to her, not only the three shrines that make up Enoshima Shrine.
The legend is quite interesting, since it tells that the island was created by the goddess Benzaiten on May 31st 552 A.D., when she made it rise from the ocean in order to chastise a terrible five headed dragon that had made life miserable for the local villagers for a long time. The dragon fell in love with the beautiful goddess and agreed to stop bothering the villagers and turned itself into a hill. Modern scholars think that the dragon is a metaphor of a local river prone to flooding and that the goddess descent to earth could have its origin in various celestial phenomena.
The Shrine covers most of the island but the most famous and popular part is the Hetsumiya (辺津宮), the middle part. Especially many young couples and singles looking for a partner go to Hetsumiya to pray, as well as people who want to get rich (since Benzaiten is one of the seven Gods of luck), hence the interestingly shaped treasure box of the shrine (in the shape of a money bag). The ema makes for fun reading, as the two examples I photographed. One man, a young Mr. Akihide prayed for success in getting together with his idol, the young singer Atsuka Maeda from the very famous AKB48 girl group. Good luck! Another young woman, Ms. Rie, prayed for luck in getting together with a “tall and kind handsome guy”: I think the Goddess Benzaiten will find it easier to grant her wish but shame for not trying, right?
Behind the shrine, quite well hidden, is a small suikinkutsu (水琴窟), or a water harp (see the last photo). Since the island is so far removed from traffic and busy streets, it was easy to hear the wonderful sound even without using a bamboo hearing aid. You can read more about suikinkutsu in an earlier blog post here.