Though it’s small the island of Enoshima doesn’t lack attractions. From the sacred Enoshima shrine dotted across the island, to the unforgettable view from the top of the Sea Candle and the historic Samuel Cocking Garden, it’s overflowing with spirituality, history and character. What’s even better about the island is given its more humble size it is possible to see and do everything in one well-organized afternoon. Here’s a guide.
Enoshima is home to a shrine that is actually technically three small shrines located around Enoshima Island. Dedicated to the worship of the Kami Benten, individually the shrines are called Hetsuno-miya, Nakatsuno-miya and Okutsuno-miya but together they form Enoshima Shrine. When entering the grounds, the first shine you’ll encounter is Hetsuno-miya which was originally established in 1206, reconstructed in 1675 and finally renovated in 1976. This site is known as the home of Hadaka Benten (the goddess of music). Located not too far away sits the glowing red building that is Nakatsuno-miya, which is a little older, in fact it was originally built in 853. Finally there’s Okutsuno-miya, which used to be a Saraswati shrine. The building was lost in 1841 and reconstructed the following year. As you stroll across the island you’ll come across each of the three shrines positioned in a different location.
One of the most iconic landmarks of Enoshima is arguably the Sea Candle, that sits tall positioned right in the heart of the island. Built in 2003 for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Enoshima Electric Railway, this lighthouse style observatory is one of the best ways to get a panoramic view of not only the surrounding area but also the neighbouring cities of Yokohama and Tokyo on the horizon.
As you climb the stairs to the observation tower take time to stop and soak up the incredible views of Mt. Fuji, Izu Peninsula, the mountains at Hakone as well as Tanzawa, and Oshima Island. Admission into the candle is 500 yen for adults and 250 yen for children.
Sitting atop Enoshima Island is a garden with a very unique history. The Samuel Cocking Garden was established by English merchant Samuel Cocking during the Meiji Period. Covering 10,000 square meters, the gardens were initially curated in the 1880s and feature a mix of both Japanese and European influences giving it a uniquely the garden an exotic feel.
The story behind the garden is possibly more fascinating than the garden itself. After making a small fortune as an antiques dealer, Irish born Cocking bought a pocket of Enoshima under his Japanese wife’s name and set up the garden. Though he lived and worked in Yokohama, which was at the time a rather international city, it was here in the garden that Cocking dedicated his life’s passion.
Once you make your way around the island you’ll come across the rather mysterious Iwaya caves. Eroded by tides for thousands of years and elevated above the sea line by a series of earthquakes, the cave area has become an Enoshima landmark and a tourist hotspot. Make the pilgrimage deep into the caves and you’ll discover that they’re actually filled with sacred statues and mini dedications to Japan’s spiritual figures including the sun goddess Amaterasu.
Where to Go in Enoshima
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR