Five Statues On and Around Enoshima Five Statues On and Around Enoshima

Five Statues On and Around Enoshima


2022.05.06

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Five Statues On and Around Enoshima

The island of Enoshima in Fujisawa, Kanagawa, has been visited by tourists and pilgrims for hundreds of years. This history is still visible in many small monuments and statues on the island that commemorate noted visitors and historical events. Here are five statues and carvings on and around the island to watch out for when visiting.

  • 01

    Modern Abstraction: Shape of Cloud

    Shape of Cloud, located on the ridge immediately in front of Katase-Enoshima station

    Shape of Cloud, located on the ridge immediately in front of Katase-Enoshima station

    Located at the center of Benten Bridge just outside Katase-Enoshima station on the Odakyu train line, Shape of Cloud (Kumo no katachi) is impossible to miss. The sculpture was installed in 1987, and simultaneously evokes both the form of a woman reclining on the local beaches and clouds drifting by above. Its sculptor was Masamichi Yamamoto, an artist born in 1941 in Kyoto who studied in Rome and lived in the United States in the late 1970s. Yamamoto has sculpted many public artworks in Japan, including Yokohama’s well-known Girl with the Red Shoes (Akai kutsu no onna no ko) statue in Yamashita Park.

    Just a few steps beyond Shape of Cloud you will find a second bridge that leads to Enoshima proper

    Just a few steps beyond Shape of Cloud you will find a second bridge that leads to Enoshima proper

    Fans of modern sculpture visiting Enoshima should also make sure to visit Song of the Sea (Umi no Uta), which stands above the nearby beach of Katase Nishihama. Sculpted by Eiji Oyamatsu and installed in 2006, Song of the Sea achieves a dramatic, almost surreal effect by transposing an imagined underwater scene to the open air.

  • 02

    Two Benzaitens

    The pavilion that houses the two Benzaiten statues. Entry is ¥200 for adults, and cheaper for children. Photography inside the pavilion is prohibited

    The pavilion that houses the two Benzaiten statues. Entry is ¥200 for adults, and cheaper for children. Photography inside the pavilion is prohibited

    The hexagonal pavilion just near the Enoshima Shrine Hetsumiya (“outer shrine”—the one you reach first, arriving over the bridge), is home to two important statues of the goddess Benzaiten. Also known simply as Benten, Benzaiten is identified with Saraswati, the Indian goddess of everything that flows, including language, music, and wisdom. On Enoshima in particular, Benzaiten is credited with raising the island from the bay and taking up residence there to pacify a dragon that was menacing local residents.

    The two best-known statues in the pavilion are the Happi (“Eight-armed”) Benzaiten, which dates to the early Kamakura period (1185–1333), and the Myoon (“Wondrous Sound”) Benzaiten, which is slightly younger and depicts the goddess naked with her trademark biwa (lute). The pavilion is also home to many other treasures, including a striking dragon statue and a thousand-year-old wooden statue of Saraswati reportedly donated by an Indian exchange student.

    The pavilion that houses the two Benzaiten statues is located very close to the Enoshima Shrine Hetsumiya (outer shrine), pictured above

    The pavilion that houses the two Benzaiten statues is located very close to the Enoshima Shrine Hetsumiya (outer shrine), pictured above

  • 03

    Sun, Moon, and Monkeys: The Koshinto Stone

    The Koshinto Monument, located between the Enoshima Shrine Nakatsumiya (middle shrine) and Okutsumiya (inner shrine)

    The Koshinto Monument, located between the Enoshima Shrine Nakatsumiya (middle shrine) and Okutsumiya (inner shrine)

    One intriguing rarity tucked away between the Enoshima Shrine Nakatsumiya (middle shrine) and Okutsumiya (inner shrine) is the “Koshin Monument Offering Engraved with a Group of Monkeys” (Gun’en hosaizo koshinto).

    The Koshin folk tradition was imported from China more than a thousand years ago, and is perhaps best known for the practice of staying up all night on designated nights to prevent the “three worms” resident in your body from reporting your bad deeds to the celestial emperor. The Koshin faith is also associated with the “Three Wise Monkeys,” and this monument features thirty-six monkeys worshiping the mountain deity Sanno, worshipped at Hie Shrine in Shiga Prefecture. In the late Edo period, there was reportedly a small Hie Shrine on Enoshima. Note also the sun and moon discs at the left and right, which resemble those often seen in “pilgrimage mandalas” for sacred sites.

    The Enoshima Shrine Nakatsumiya (middle shrine)

    The Enoshima Shrine Nakatsumiya (middle shrine)

  • 04

    The Maestro: Yamada Kengyo

    The statue of Yamada Kengyo, which can be found to the right of Enoshima Shrine’s Okutsumiya (inner shrine)

    The statue of Yamada Kengyo, which can be found to the right of Enoshima Shrine’s Okutsumiya (inner shrine)

    To the right of Enoshima Shrine’s Okutsumiya (inner shrine) is a bronze of famous composer and koto player Yamada Kengyo (1757–1817). Yamada Kengyo learned the koto (a kind of Japanese zither) after losing his sight at a young age. He went on to found the Yamada-ryu school of koto playing, distinguished by its incorporation of musical ideas from joruri and other genres popular in Edo (modern-day Tokyo).

    This statue was erected in 1917, on the centenary of Yamada Kengyo’s death. Why Enoshima? Because one of Yamada’s earliest “hits” was the Song of Enoshima (Enoshima no kyoku), which he composed at the age of twenty. The work’s lyrics describe the pleasures of a visit to the island and sing the praises of Benzaiten; it even has a section inspired by the gagaku heard at Enoshima Shrine.

    Enoshima Shrine’s Okutsumiya (inner shrine)

    Enoshima Shrine’s Okutsumiya (inner shrine)

  • 05

    Mystery Man: En no Ozuno in the Iwaya Caves

    The En no Ozuno Carving, located inside the Iwaya Caves

    The En no Ozuno Carving, located inside the Iwaya Caves

    The Iwaya Caves on the westmost edge of Enoshima are where religious worship on the island is said to have begun. They have long fascinated visitors and appear in many ukiyo-e, travel journals, and other sources. Although the caves now have reinforced walls and reassuring electric lighting, visitors are still supplied with candles to recreate the premodern atmosphere. (Entry costs ¥500 for adults and high school students and ¥200 for junior high and elementary students.)

    Sections of the cave tunnels are lined with statues of various buddhas, bodhisattvas, monks, and other exalted figures. These are executed in various styles and are of different ages, and every visitor seems to be drawn to a different favorite. Your correspondent is partial to this carving of En no Ozuno, a seventh-century mystic who is said to have been the first to meditate in the Iwaya Caves (after magically flying to Enoshima from his exile on Izu Oshima island). The carving is so old that En no Ozuno’s form has faded to the barest hint of an outline, as if he were vanishing into the mists of time.

    The path leading to the Iwaya Caves skirts the rocky face of Enoshima’s west side, allowing great views of Mt. Fuji on a clear day

    The path leading to the Iwaya Caves skirts the rocky face of Enoshima’s west side, allowing great views of Mt. Fuji on a clear day

  • 06

    Getting to Enoshima

    The two closest stations to Enoshima are Katase-Enoshima station on the Odakyu line, with easy connections from Shinjuku station or Fujisawa station, or Enoshima station on the picturesque Enoden (Enoshima Electric Railway), which connects Kamakura and Fujisawa. From either station, simply walk toward the ocean and then cross the bridge to Enoshima island.

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