The Lanterns of Enoshima


For the fifteen years that I’ve lived in Japan, I’d never heard of the Enoshima Lantern Festival until recently.

‘Let’s go and see the lanterns in Enoshima,’ my friend invited me while he was winding up the day at his workplace.

‘What sort of lanterns?’ I asked.

‘They are like these,’ he said as he showed me the website of the event on his PC. An avenue of paper lanterns along a path with the illuminated sea candle in the background looked very attractive and cinematic.

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‘This is nice,’ I said, ‘Enoshima by night. Let’s go.’

The idea of exploring the island at night hooked me up. I had never walked around the island in the evening before. And by chance I had my battered old camera with me. Spontaneous decisions, I thought, are always rewarding.
From Odakyu Fujisawa station, we took the train to Katase Enoshima. It took just over ten minutes. We arrived at about 7.00 p.m. just when most visitors were leaving the island. The weather was fine. We still had an hour and a half to enjoy the illumination—The light-up had begun at six and would end at half past eight.

EnoNight1At the entrance. Night and day, the popular island teems with visitors.

At the crowded convenience store by the entrance to Odakyu Katase Enoshima station, we grabbed some cans of beer and chuhai. Sipping our drinks, we crossed the 600-meter Bentenbashi Bridge to the island. There were still many young lovers holding hands walking about. At the torii gate entrance, I was surprised to see dozens of people, young and old, glued on their smartphones. I went near them and discovered they were Pokemon hunters. The island, I thought, has become a sanctuary of Pokemon monsters and a lair of Pokemoners. Enoshima, I told him, has become a Pokemon island.

Leaving the Pokemon gatherers behind, we climbed up and walked around the island. With a few visitors and lovers left lingering around, we could enjoy the illumination to ourselves. The island, it seemed, had an air of mystery and nostalgia. It had acquired a new dimension of beauty. When there is more darkness, I felt, there is more to see and to discover. Taking pictures becomes more challenging and fun.

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‘Let’s walk all the way down to the bottom,’ I suggested to my kali martial art practitioner friend.

‘Are you sure you want to go there,’ he answered. ‘It’s too dark. There’s not much to see.’

‘Since we took all this trouble to come here,’ I said, ‘we might as well complete the trip.’

‘Okay.’

My seasoned mountaineer-friend had had a long day at work and he was not so inclined to do more exploration at this moment. But he yielded to my curiosity.

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The sea at night as viewed from the cliffs on the western side of the island had a new face; a new look. It was a perfect place to have a tall cold bottle of beer or chuhai which unfortunately we had run out of. Sagami Bay was calm; the reflections of lights on the night horizon and on the surface were both melancholy and seductive.

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‘It’s good we came all the way down here,’ I said.

‘Yeah,’ my friend from Ontario said. ‘It’s great.’

The lights went off at exactly 8.30 p.m. While walking between the lanterns earlier, I felt it was a kind of privilege: someone had lit your way and had lit it elegantly. But now, they were gone and darkness was equally distributed all over the island. The honor had ended.

On the bridge in front of Odakyu Katase Enoshima station, my drinking buddy and I sat down for another round of beer and pineapple chuhai. Relaxed and feeling blessed, we reflected on the events of the night.

For more information → http://www.odakyu.jp/english/destination/enoshima_kamakura/