Endless crowds of people. Car traffic. Giant screens broadcasting ads for this and that. Touts inviting passersby to try a new gadget. And the ever present city lights. Tokyo is a city that never sleeps, a city where you can rarely see the stars because it’s never dark enough. As exciting as life here can be, after a while it can also become draining, exhausting. Small breaks from the pandemonium are a welcome (if not necessary) opportunity to recharge one’s batteries.
Enoshima is ideal for such day trips. Said to have been raised from the sea by the goddess Banzaiten, this little island boasts a variety of attractions that include botanical gardens, an observation tower at the top floor of a modern lighthouse, a beautiful shrine dedicated to Banzaiten and pathways leading to ancient caves that were believed to stretch all the way to Mount Fuji.
In the summer it becomes a popular meeting point for younger crowds who bring a surfer vibe to the area. Just as with the rest of the Shonan area, the surf itself is small but surfers here don’t seem to mind.
Laid-back as the atmosphere is, it doesn’t compare to the tranquility the island’s other attractions offer. Reaching Enoshima on foot via the bridge that connects it to the mainland, the first thing one sees is the red torii gate. Walking up the hill towards the shrine is easy enough barring extreme weather conditions or health-related issues. Past the shrine and on the way to the lighthouse are the botanical gardens, which welcome half a million visitors each year.
Sea Candle, as the modern lighthouse is known, offers breathtaking views of the cliffs on the island’s back side and of the Shonan area. On clear days visitors are also treated to what is said to be one of the most beautiful views of Mt. Fuji.
The walk from the lighthouse to the Iwaya Caves is relatively short but the summer heat can make it feel endless so the little shops selling cold drinks and ice-cream are a good opportunity to rest.
The caves themselves are located on the back edge of the island and are accessible via a long staircase carved in stone. The first and largest one is home to a number of statues of both Buddhist and Shinto deities. The second is dedicated to a dragon that, after years of terrorizing the local fishermen, was punished by Banzaiten in the story that led to the island’s creation.
The serene atmosphere inside the caves takes a mystical dimension under the watchful eye of the dragon’s statue and is amplified by the candles given to visitors at the entrance.
Retracing your steps to the mainland, do yourself a favour and pick a good spot by the ocean from which to see the sky turn gold, then orange and red. The waves attacking the massive cliffs and the hawks flying overhead will turn this simple daily occurrence into a grand finale to your trip.
Access from Tokyo is cheap and easy, with the rapid express Odakyu train from Shinjuku to Fujisawa taking a little under an hour. Once in Fujisawa, a local train to Katase-Enoshima will take you the rest of the way.
Visitors can purchase a 1-day pass that will get them a round-trip to Fujisawa Station and free access to the lighthouse, the botanical gardens, the caves and the escalators ascending the slopes between the first torii and the Sea Candle.
Enoshima 1-Day Passport