Tokyobling's Blog

Enoshima Walking and Enoshima Shrine – Okutsunomiya

Posted in Places by tokyobling on February 20, 2014

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.

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Enoshima Shrine – Hetsumiya

Posted in Places by tokyobling on February 18, 2014

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.

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Enoshima Walking

Posted in Places by tokyobling on February 17, 2014

One of the premier tourist destinations of Tokyo’s neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture is the curious little Enoshima island right on the Pacific Ocean coast, in the Sagami Bay (相模湾). It currently belongs to the city of Fujisawa、Katase Town. The island itself is quite small, only four kilometer around but feels much bigger, not least because of its impressive 60m height. It used to be lower, but in 1923 a huge earthquake raised the entire island by two meters. Before that it used to be possible to walk to the island during low tide, but in the last couple of decades the spit of land connecting the island to the mainland has moved slightly eastwards and walking to the island has not been an option for a quite some time now. Despite being such a tiny island relying almost exclusively on tourism, there are still about 406 people living here. In 1955 there was a population peak at 1323 people but the population seems to be declining still. Enoshima has a small local post office though!

I took these photos of the island’s only main street and a few of the back streets that are much calmer. It doesn’t take many minutes to walk all of the streets of this little place but surprisingly few tourists do, most pressing on towards the island interior, which is marked by the large gate of the Enoshima Shrine, the Zuishinmon gate (瑞心門). More photos of Enoshima to come!

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Yuigahama Beach Sunset – Kamakura

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on December 7, 2013

A couple of weeks ago when I visited Kamakura I took these photos of the Yuigahama beach at sunset, after a short rainstorm. The clouds were clearing up and the moon was there, one of my favorite times in one of my favorite places. There were still a few surfers out in the ocean, they must be a hardy bunch!

Yuigahama beach faces south, so it is tricky to photograph during the day. I have so far made many visits to beaches facing south, east and west but I have never spent any longer amount of time on a beach facing north! That is one of the things on my to do list in life. The north coast of Japan is still a big blank for me.

In the autumn or early winter the worst of the summer storms have passed, few people visit the beach and it is cleaner than during spring or summer. I still found one unopened package of Onikoroshi, a supermarket brand of Japanese sake. I am almost addicted to beach combing and whenever I visit this beach I bring a small garbage bag to collect garbage, plastic, pieces of glass and anything that does not belong to the beach. I wish everyone was as manic as me, the beach would be spotless in no time! One short stroll along the beach usually results in a well filled garbage bag that I put in the trash cans near the stairs leading down to the beach. The only thing I never collect is forgotten children’s toys. I always have a secret wish that the child who forgot it will come back and find it again. I wonder if that ever happens in real life?

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