Enoshima is a small island dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess Benzaiten. Legends say that it was this goddess of water that made this island rise from the sea many many moons ago. You will see several beautiful shrines as you climb towards the Enoshima Sea Candle dedicated to her and her husband, the dragon god. Water deities are often associated with the flowing motion of life, music, and conversation. So, if you want to pray to someone, I think they are a lively option!
I recently took a short detour from Kamakura to Enoshima and found it well worth a visit. The island has a beautiful atmosphere, great food, beautiful panoramic views of the Shonan shoreline, and a large historical garden.
Read on for more details!
The Only Way to Enoshima: Benten Bashi
As Enoshima is an island you have to take a bridge to get there. I believe some buses run from the local stations, but I chose to walk as it wasn’t far and the views are amazing. If you get lucky (I never do haha) you can even see Mount Fuji! The weather would have to be clear for that, so early fall is likely your best bet. You’ll see some signs for the Olympics as this was supposed to be the sailing location for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Even slowly walking along the bridge with my toddler the walk did not take more than 15 minutes. In the distance, you’ll see the island and the famous Sea Candle which seems to be at a suspiciously high elevation. More about that later.
What is Shirasu? Walking on Nakamise Street
Once you cross Benten Bashi you will be greeted by a bronze tori gate that signals your arrival to Enoshima and leads you to Nakamise Street. This is Enoshima’s main shopping street which has a few miscellaneous shops, restaurants, and clothing stores. Nakamise Street itself is a popular tourist destination due to its traditional Japanese feel. This area is known for denim, so it’s a good place to stop for some new jeans.
Enoshima’s famous food is Shirasu, called Whitebait in English. You can get some all along the slope of Nakamise Street. I don’t love it (not a seafood person) but these small fish are pretty good for you as they are high in calcium. Shops here close pretty early though, and even earlier if the weather is bad. Prepare accordingly! We were heading out around five as it started to drizzle and Enoshima was already starting to close up.
The Enoshima Climb: The Stairs to Hetsunomiya
Once you hit the red tori gate on the stairs you are leaving Nakamise Street and entering the realm of the gods. To get to the Samuel Cocking Garden and the Enoshima Sea Candle you must climb! My son is only 2 so while he is very active, he would be over it after a couple of stairs, and then he would have to be hauled around like the prince that he is. My almost thirty-year-old back was not relishing the thought.
Luckily there is an escalator going up…but not down (ESCAR). Unfortunately, the top of Enoshima does not have access for those with serious physical disabilities so please consider this when planning your trip. If you opt to take the escalator up you do have to pay (360 yen per person) but they offer package deals including entrance to the Samuel Cocking Garden and the Sea Candle, and if you have an Enoden Line day pass you can get a discount.
The escalators are broken up in such a way that you can still visit the various shrines on your way up. Hetsunomiya is the main shrine and is dedicated to three sister water goddesses. If you would like to worship at the shrine don’t forget to wash your hands at the te-mizuya first.
The final escalator will drop you off at the entrance of the Samuel Cocking Garden.
The Samuel Cocking Garden and the Enoshima Sea Candle
This botanical garden has a mixed influence of European and Japanese styles which gives it an interesting vibe. It was established way back in 1862 by merchant Samuel Cocking and is a lovely place to walk around. If you happen to come in the winter, the Samuel Cocking Garden does wonderful illuminations.
We were pretty hungry by the time we got there so we stopped by for some very expensive French toast at Lon Café. Touristy spots beget touristy prices! We paid around JPY4,000 for French toast and coffee for two people. It was however very good (I mean for that price it better be) and the atmosphere is nice because you can enjoy some great views.
Finally, we arrived at our destination, the Enoshima Sea Candle! Due to Covid-19 masks were required, but that’s the rule all over Japan so I don’t think it will surprise anyone. My son is obsessed with space lately, so I told him a little fib that it was a rocket (it does look like one). So now he has some very good memories of going up in a rocket and possibly thinks we went to the moon…
It was a cloudy day so no Mount Fuji for us, but such is my life. I am never going to see that damn mountain. The panoramic views were still beautiful and we enjoyed walking around.
I think our total time in Enoshima was no more than three hours but it was thoroughly memorable and enjoyable. There were many things that I still did not get to try, such as the Enoshima Aquarium and the Enoshima Iwaya Cave so I will definitely be back.
Happy and safe travels everyone!