Just west of the small city of Kamakura and only an hour via train to downtown Tokyo lies the Island of Enoshima, a 4km square rock jutting from the ocean which is packed with amazing things to do. On a clear day, it also provides one of our absolute favorite views of Mt. Fuji. Like Kamakura, Enoshima is great for its easy access (it’s actually one of the only places we’ve found its faster AND cheaper to drive to) as it offers a little bit of everything without being overwhelming. Whether you are in the mood for beaches, shrines, parks, restaurants, the aquarium, or even exploring the island’s caves you will find something to your liking!
There are several shrines on the island, nearly all devoted to Benzaiten, the goddess of music, wealth, & fortune. If you have read up on our adventures in Kamakura you know that in order to complete the Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage you have to collect 8 stamps (the last one being Enoshima Shrine in Enoshima!). If you haven’t explored Kamakura yet you can always start the pilgrimage at Enoshima Shrine as the stamp boards are also available here and then visit Kamakura at a later date – up to you! Benzaiten is not only one of the seven lucky gods, but also believed to have made Enoshima after defeating a five headed dragon. This theme comes up again and again as you stroll the island, as there are prominent dragons displayed in several places.
The path on the Island is pretty distinct and self-explanatory making it relatively easy to explore and see all the sights. Be prepared to climb, as there are a lot of stairs on the path, some of which are very steep (particularly as you head down to the caves). It may seem like it’s a circular path, but don’t be fooled, as it’s actually an out + back, so you’ll be returning the same way. If you have difficulty with stairs, you can opt to purchase a pass for the Enoshima ESCAR (escalators). This is the first paid outdoor escalator pass in Japan and takes the 20 min hike to the top down to 5 minutes. It’s actually a set of three escalators total, with stops at different sites in-between the sections. As a warning, there are no escalators back down so before getting up there make sure your knees are ready to get you back home!
- Hours: 0830 – 1700
- Admission: 360yen for a one day ESCAR pass, but if you are planning on doing the botanical gardens, the sea candle, and the caves you can purchase an “Eno-Pass” for all three for 1000yen which includes the ESCAR. This essentially saves you 360yen.
As mentioned above, Enoshima Shrine is actually a collection of three shrines, all devoted to Benten, the island’s goddess of wealth, fortune, music, and knowledge. Admission to the shrines is free, but to see the statue of Benten it does cost 200 yen. It may be a worthwhile investment, however, as legend states that if you wash your money in her fountain, it will come back to you twofold after spending it!
- Hours: Everyday, 0830 – 1630
- Admission: Free (200yen to visit the statue of Beneten)
There are a ton of food options on the island, from traditional Japanese restaurants to street vendors and everything in-between (Yup, even a Hello Kitty themed Japanese Tea House is in the mix! Interested? See below.). Most of the sit down restaurants are gathered near the entrance to the island just after you cross the bridge and mixed in are a good number of street stands as well. Ever tried dango? If not, give it a go and see what you think! These chewy dumplings derived from sweetened rice flour are boiled, grilled, and then doused with a healthy dose of sweetened soy sauce.
Looking to get out of the heat? Check out one of the more traditional spots and order one of the island’s local specialties! We’re talkin’ ’bout you grilled squid and Turban!
Looking for something else to try? That’s not a bowl of noodles below. That’s right, it’s hundreds of little eyeballs staring back at you?! Hello, bowl of baby sardines, Shirasu (often referred to as whitebait)! Don’t be turned off until you try it, as it is actually very good! The local area is one of the best places in Japan for whitebait fishing due to the large amounts of plankton in the area. If you are interested in seeing live Shirasu head to the Enoshima Aquarium (see below) as it features a lake zone which has the only place in the world that showcases them!
We think there’s a pretty solid shot that you’ll find something in the front of the island to suit your fancy. However, if nothing grabs your attention go ahead and head up Benzaiten Nakamise Street. This street is the main drag and is lined with shops as well as more street vendors and restaurants.
Here you’ll find one more culinary treat to try while on Enoshima. Right before you get to the steps leading up to the first Shrine there is a small shop to your left. They sell “crackers” made completely of octopus or shrimp that have been smushed between two hot plates. It’s hard to miss the places as they generally have lines out front due to the popularity. Dom and I didn’t dislike it, but wouldn’t exactly call it tasty either. I imagine fish food tastes similarly. Miles, on the other hand absolutely loved it!
In addition to the spots located at the island’s entrance, there are also quite a few located near the top. The kids found the cutest little stop (sorry, we don’t know the name) on our way to the caves. We thought these little piggies were pork buns, but it turned out they were filled with chocolate and custard…surprise! Just one example of how it pays to be literate – ha! If you’re curious though, they were (like most things in Japan) delicious. Looking for something traditionally a bit sweeter, but still kinda quirky? Check out these crazy ice-cream flavors at the shop just a few doors down.
Of course we couldn’t leave this section without giving you the deets for the Hello Kitty Tea House… because, Japan. So here you go! Additionally, there is also a cafe in Kyoto (although we never made it there), if you’re interested.
- Hours: 1030 – 1700
- Admission: Menu ranges from 500yen – 2,480yen
If you’re looking to pick-up something special for yourself or someone back home, nearby Kamakura is probably your best bet. However, there are several shops along the main drag (after crossing over to the island), Benzaiten Nakamise Street, selling handmade goods, local items, shells, and various children’s toys. It’s a really nice place to stroll for a little window shopping. Heck, maybe pick-up a hat for your neighbor’s cat! LOL. Oh, Japan!
One of the best ways to scope out what the Sagami Bay has to offer is to stop at the Enoshima Aquarium located right before you cross over the bridge to the island. Initially founded in the 1950s, the current building was built in 2004 and is surprisingly big and well-equipped for such a small area. The Sagami Lake Zone is particularly popular, as it is the only place in the world that showcases live Shirasu (whitebait), a local delicacy (see bowl of eyeballs pictured above). It also features an incredible jellyfish hall, with several species circulating in large backlit tanks. While it can’t hold a candle to some of the large aquariums in Japan (like in Okinawa or Osaka), it was one of the best ones we’ve visited in the local area and is definitely worth checking out!
- Hours: Everyday, 0900 – 1700 (opening from December – February at 1000)
- Admission: 2,400yen/Adult, 1,500yen/Sr. High Students, 1,000yen/Jr. High & Elementary Students, 600yen/Children age 3 and up, Children under age 3 are free
In our opinion, one of the best things about Enoshima is the incredible view you can enjoy along your way to the top. There is a viewing platform with binoculars that offers a near 180 degree of the ocean and the rolling mountains of mainland Japan. While we are sure it is incredible during sunset, we much prefer to end the day with view near Iwaya Caves (more on that below).
Another great stop while your enjoying some time at the top of the island (either on your way to the caves or on your way back) is The Love Bell. The goddess of Enoshima, Benzaiten, is associated with love and thus the island is also known as a place for romance and young love to blossom. In the myth, Benzaiten marries the dragon because he promises to change his ways…not exactly the best reason in our minds! Near the top of the island on a cliff overlooking the ocean is a bell popper for couples to ring. This “Love Bell” is rung by couples together while making a wish that they stay together forever.
Adjacent to the bell are several fences overlooking the sea. It’s a popular custom for couples to write messages on padlocks and lock them to the fence. Afterward, they head to the cliff and toss the keys into the sea – locking in their love for all eternity. Awwwww!
- Hours: Sunrise to sunset
- Admission: Free
Completing your trek across the island, you’ll finally climb down the (steep) stairs to Iwaya caves. They were created through erosion by the waves over thousands of years and are located at the very western end of the island along the final stretch of the walking trail. Despite the steep descent, the trek down is definitely worth the additional effort. In addition to the caves themselves, the path along the way features one of our absolute favorite views of Mt. Fuji looming in the distance. The view here at sunset is particularly incredible.
In the 1970s the caves were closed after a tourist was injured by a falling rock, and consequently they were off-limits for many years. In the early 90s, however, the city revamped the inside of the caves and re-opened them. The caves are easy to navigate and are very short in length. You can see several Buddhist statues in the first cave while the second cave is dedicated to the dragon of Enoshima.
- Hours: 0900 – 1600 (winter), 0900 – 1700 March to mid-October, 0900 – 1800 weekends and holidays
- Admission: 500yen/Adult, 200yen/Children
Overall, we’ve found that the fastest way to access the island from the Yokosuka area is actually to drive, as there is abundant parking right over the bridge which is (surprisingly) quite affordable. If you are coming from farther away, however, the island is easily accessible by train as well. In particular, the Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden) is a 10km railway line connecting Fujisawa and Kamakura to Enoshima. You can catch it from Kamakura station, which you can take from pretty much anywhere on JR Railways.
- Hours: Curious when trains run? Click here to view timetables.
- Admission: Fares vary depending upon your destination. Click here to calculate the cost!
Japan is well-known for its winter illuminations (think Christmas type light displays). Enoshima features a particularly large one, as much of the walking path is lit up, allowing you to grab a hot sake or coffee and stroll through the displays. The “sea candle” at the top of the island is strung with lights, and is unmistakable for the entire winter season.
- Hours: Every night during November 25 – February 18th, 1700 – 2000 on weekdays, 1700 – 2100 on weekends and December 23 – 30
- Admission: Free, but admission required to enter Samuel Cocking Garden
Then every night in August, lanterns are displayed along the entire pathway of Enoshima, making for a very relaxing and romantic way to spend your evening. Of all the times we’ve visited Enoshima, this is our favorite time to visit. Over 1000 garden lanterns are used to bathe the pathway in a romantic warm glow. Despite the hot August temperatures, the night time chill and sea breeze make for an absolutely lovely way to spend an evening!
- Hours: Every night in August, sunset – 2030
- Admission: Free
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