Hey there, I know I said we will talk about Kanazawa, but let’s talk about bling real quick.
When someone visits Tokyo, the obvious recommendation is to go further down in Kanagawa and walk around the many temples of Kamakura. Don’t get me wrong, Kamakura is pretty and has its own history, being the seat of the Shogunate and such. But, there is a but, in the Kamakura-Enoshima combo, Enoshima is just prettier. It could be due to being an island so close to the mainland, or because it is tiny and compact. Either way, Enoshima is my favorite place to be, in both sunny days or gloomy days.
There are several ways to reach Enoshima by public transport. The most popular is Enoden, an old school green train, surprisingly popular because it was featured in the anime series “Slam Dunk”. The other option is Shonan Monorail, offering an interesting bird eye view of the city from above. The last option is Odakyu Enoshima line, reaching Katase-Enoshima station. This station has one of the most interesting buildings I have seen, as it has a layered roof and bright red lacquerwork. Katase-Enoshima station reopened after renovation only half a year ago, in July 2020, with the new design of the entrance matching in style the main temple of Enoshima island.
Enoshima is a small island at Sagami bay, located just next to the shore. It is connected to the mainland by a relatively short bridge called Enoshima Bentenbashi. The bridge offers a separate large pedestrian walkway and most of the island is a pedestrian zone, although full of staircases because of its hilly morphology. Enoshima is also the designated location for sailing and other olympic sports, with a new marina on the east side of the island. The marina suffered heavy damages during a large typhoon about a year ago, but looked completely repaired now.
Upon stepping foot on Enoshima, you are greeted by a large copper torii gate, turned green as a result of the passage of time. The entire island could be considered as a holy area and part of the Enoshima Hetsunomiya shrine. You will notice a lot of statues of the benevolent goddess Benzaiten and random dragons all around. The local folklore basically describes how a dragon stopped terrorizing the villages with earthquakes after he fell in love with Benzaiten and switched to being a protector instead. Have some patience and try to avoid bumping on people eating giant senbei crackers, and after a couple of stair steps, you will reach the main entrance to the shrine. These are only the first set of stairs, you have many, many more steps to climb.
However, fear not, the kind business megabrains of Enoshima are here to help you. You can buy tickets just next to the shine entrance and use one way escalators (going only upwards) to get to higher levels. A ticket combo including use of escalators, entrance to Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden and the Sea Candle deck costs 800yen. If you prefer walking, you can buy separate entrance tickets at the top. Going up, you first reach the inner temple, with a general thematic about love and two “married” tree trunks (むすびの樹, musubi-no-ki) for love wishes. I should note, that Enoshima in general is an optimal destination of couples, maybe because it provides even a love bell to make wishes for eternal love. If you see a white dragon (銭洗白龍王) holding a dragonball inside a pond, consider washing your money in the pond, both coins and banknotes, so that the dragon blesses you with money fortune.
At the tallest point of the island, there is a western style garden and a tall lighthouse, with the not-so-genius name “Sea Candle”. The garden was established by the British Samuel Cocking at the end of 19th century, but was ultimately destroyed at the Kanto earthquake. At some point, Fujisawa city started developing the garden, while keeping the original brick foundations of the collapsed structures. This time, in January, the theme of the garden was vibrant tulips.
Despite my many years in Japan, this was the first time I actually entered the garden and the lighthouse. My first thought was “Why is there a sign in English of Miami Beach Area”. Apparently, Enoshima is a sister city of Miami Beach area, and they installed a monument to commemorate the friendship. There is also a Chinese pagoda, a gift from a Chinese artist and the city of Kunming, as well as another monument representing Japanese-Korean relations.
The Sea Candle is a large lighthouse, doubling as an observation deck. It is also lit up in the evening, with various colors to pump up the mood. On the top, there are two decks; one with glass windows, protected from the wind and rain, and the top open-air observatory. Both of them offer 360 degrees of unobstructed view of the pacific ocean and Kanto.
The main view is that of Mt. Fuji at sunset or at full moon. The latter belongs also in a list called “the 100 most beautiful moons of Japan”. From this side, the tiny alleys of the island are visible, as the sun sets behind Izu peninsula.
Luckily, the weather was clear and the clouds that usually cover the top of Mt. Fuji had cleared a bit, so I could discern the limit of the snow cap at its top.
Apart from Mt. Fuji, other peaks that I have climbed before and described in the #hiking section of the blog, are also visible. I could see Mt. Amagi in Izu, Mt. Hakone and Myojingatake in Kanagawa, Mt. Takao and Mt. Mitake in Tokyo, even Mt. Mihara on the Izu Oshima island. If you have good eyesight or the help of binoculars, Tokyo tower and Skytree are also visible.
Here starts the good part. The reason I visited the garden today is that they set up an illumination event. For some reason, the most common attraction in Japan during winter is visiting “illuminations”. Millions of tiny LEDS illuminate trees and flowers, attempting to create vistas of a magical garden. I came for the bling! I am talking about the Shonannohoseki event, which was ranked as the 2nd best illumination in Japan for 2020. There was a quick countdown and at 17:30 the whole garden lit up, accompanied by a long “Oooooh”. There were some glass sculptures, differently colored areas and a long purple kira kira tunnel. If you happen to be oblivious of the word ‘kira kira’, it is an onomatopoeia that means bling or glitter, similar to the mainstream ‘pika pika’. An unexpected surprise was the fact that they selected minimal electro instead of the usual romantic songs as the soundtrack of the illumination.
The garden was nice to walk around, enjoy a beer on the side, but it was too cold to stay longer. There is a second illumination zone, although more miserable, accessible for free outside the garden.
Leaving Enoshima, remember to get some senbei or a maccha ice cream to eat while crossing the bridge back to the station. However, be wary of the large hawks that are hovering above, ready to attack your food. Additionally, remember to look to the left, in order to enjoy the symmetric silhouette of Mt. Fuji for one last time.