Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Ultimate Guide to the Stunning Enoshima

Just an hour from Tokyo, Enoshima in Kanagawa Prefecture is now a well-known tourist destination for foreign travelers. The small island, filled with picturesque views and cultural elements, has been a popular place for a weekend getaway for the citizens of Tokyo and surrounding prefectures. Nowadays, many trendy shops and restaurants are open on the small island with a circumference of 5 km, making the visit even more pleasant.

Furthermore, Enoshima is only 40 minutes away by bus from Kamakura, so many people treat the two destinations as a duo and plan a two to three day-visit to make their trip to Japan more unforgettable!

On a clear day, you are almost guaranteed a photo with the mighty Mt. Fuji as a backdrop!

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How to Get to Enoshima from Tokyo and Narita/Haneda Airport

For Enoshima’s access information, please refer to the official website HERE. At the bottom of the webpage, there is also information about various transportation passes that will save you money. The same information is provided on the first page of the brochure HERE. On top of the English station name, the station number and the Japanese station name are labeled, which might be useful when you get there.

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Also, please find HERE Enoshima’s English map.

Tips:
☛ Instead of taking Odakyū Electric Railway (小田急電鉄) and getting off at Katase-Enoshima Station (片瀬江ノ島駅), we recommend switching to Enoden (Enoshima Electric Railway (江ノ島電鉄)) from Kamakura Station (鎌倉駅) or Fujisawa Station (藤沢駅). The retro station buildings and train carriages and the natural scenery mixed with the view of the townscapes along the train line are the best way to start your trip to Enoshima.
☛ For the return trip, take the train from Odakyū ‘s Katase-Enoshima Station to check out the station designed based on the dragon palace!
☛ Remember to grab an Enoshima Map from the Enoshima Tourist Center (江の島観光案内所) at the end of Enoshima Benten Bridge. English directory signs are also placed across the island.

Enoshima Benten Bridge (江の島弁天橋)

From the train stations closest to Enoshima, it is around a 5 to 10-minute walk to the pedestrian-only Enoshima Benten Bridge (江の島弁天橋) that connects the island with Japan’s main island. If you plan to drive, use the vehicles-only Enoshima Ōhashi Bridge (江の島大橋), which is just a meter away.

The 389-meter-long Enoshima Benten Bridge was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics yacht competition. On the bridge, you might see some people enjoying watersports.

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Bronze Torii Gate (青銅の鳥居)

Crossing the Enoshima Benten Bridge, the green Bronze Torii Gate is the entrance of Enoshima. The gate – restored in 1821, also marks the precinct of the realm of god.

© photo-ac.com

In the past, Shintoism and Buddhism were synchronized in Japan. Up until the beginning of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), when the separation decree was issued, Enoshima itself was the precinct of a temple called Kinkizan Yogan-ji (金亀山与願寺), a temple for Benzaiten worshipping.

So when pilgrims took on a pilgrimage trip to Enoshima, they aimed to worship the Benzaiten in the Enoshima Iwaya Caves at the far back of the island.

The street that stretches from the torii gate is called Nakamise-dōri (仲見世通り), which is the approach to Enoshima Shrine. Souvenir shops and restaurants lined the sides of Nakamise-dōri, making it one of the most lively spots on Enoshima.

Note that most of the shops are only open from 10 am to 11 am, so if you arrive earlier than that but want to check out the shops, remember to come back before late afternoon, which is usually when the shops will start closing.

Enoshima, a Cat Island

While it is not well known, there are many cats in Enoshima.

Unlike the cats in big cities, the cats on Enoshima are chill and won’t escape from you when you draw near. In fact, a few of them might even come up to you for some pets!

If you want to find out about other cat islands in the country, refer to our article on the Top 10 Cat Islands in Japan!

The List of Attractions in Enoshima for You to Consider

The Legend of the Five-headed Dragon and the Origin of Enoshima

Most of the historical and cultural attractions on Enoshima are based on the Legend of the Five-headed Dragon, which is said to be the origin of the island. Here is how the legend goes.

Important: We do apologize for the distressing content that may be uncomfortable for you as some parts relate to children.

  • Once upon a time, a five-headed dragon was living in Sagami Bay (where Enoshima now exists). The dragon ravaged the village along the coast, which caused a lot of trouble for the villagers.
  • In a desperate attempt to save the village, the villagers offered children to the dragon as tributes. This is why the area was called Koshigoe (originally “子死越”, now “腰越” so the name doesn’t cause distress to people).
  • In 552, a large earthquake happened in Koshigoe and continued for 10 days. As a result, Enoshima rose up from the sea.
  • After the earthquake stopped, a beautiful goddess with 15 children descended.
  • The dragon fell in love at first sight and proposed to the goddess but was rejected on the spot.
  • Not giving up on the goodness, the dragon vowed to make up for his past sins and started to take care of the village, and the goddess finally agreed to marry him.
  • As time passed by, the dragon’s life got closer to an end. But to keep up his promise, he turned himself into a mountain, Ryūkōzan (龍口山), and continues to watch over the island today.
    • Ryūkōzan is the small hill at the back of Ryūkō-ji (龍口寺) on the other side of Enoshima Station.
  • The island that popped up after the earthquake is Enoshima, and the goddess is Benzaiten (弁財天), the goddess of wealth, music, and eloquence.

Enoshima Shrine (江島神社)

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Enoshima Shrine is the major attraction of Enoshima. Before the separation of Shiotisim and Buddism, Enoshima itself is the precinct of Kinkizan Yogan-ji Temple (金亀山与願寺) that worships Benzaiten, a Buddism guardian deity.

Although the name of the religious facility has changed, it remains a popular pilgrimage spot in Japan to plea for Benzaiten’s blessing.

Together with the Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社) on Miyajima and the Tsukubusuma Shrine (都久夫須麻神社) in Shiga Prefecture, the Benzaiten statues in the three shrines are known as the Three Great Benzaiten in Japan.

Enoshima Shrine consists of three sub-shrines, the Hetsumiya (辺津宮), the Nakatsumiya (中津宮), and the Okutsumiya (奥津宮). In addition to the worship halls, the shrine also has a couple more interesting spots, such as a pond that will make you richer if you wash your coins in it.

For more information about this prominent attraction on Enoshima, please refer to our article on Enoshima Shrine.

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Enoshima Iwaya Caves (江の島岩屋)

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© Fujisawa City Tourist Association

Enoshima Iwaya Caves are said to be the birthplace of the Enoshima Shrine. It is also where many revered Japanese monks meditated centuries ago.

In addition to the historical and cultural elements, the scenery from the bridges leading to the cave entrance is just spectacular. On a clear day, you will even get a clear view of Mt. Fuji afar!

For more information, please refer to the second half of our Enoshima Shrine article.

Shitamichi Passage Way (下道)

If you don’t want to climb up stairs and don’t want to use Enoshima Escar, Shitamichi Passage Way is a good option to get to Enoshima Shrine’s Okutsumiya and Enoshima Iwaya Caves.

Although it will mean missing out on Enoshima Shrine’s Hetsumiya and Nakatsumiya, it is a great way to conserve your physical stamina.

From the red torii gate of Enoshima Shrine, head right instead of passing through the torii gate. You will see this traditional red bridge in no time. As the passageway is constructed along the island’s coastline, it will be a more relaxing stroll with superb ocean views.

If you want to visit Enoshima Sea Candle and the observation decks at the top of Enoshima, all you need to do is climb up the stairs along Oiwaya Street. Yes, there is a bit of climbing, but it won’t be as tiring.

Enoshima Daishi (江の島大師)

From Nakatsumiya to Okutsumiya, you will walk past a temple called Enoshima Daishi. The two bright red Deva king statues will definitely catch your attention.

Because of the modern-style worship hall, many might think it is a Buddhist-themed museum that the Deva kings are guarding. But it is the 6-meter tall red Acala statue (不動像) in the Hondō Hall that they are protecting. Because of its red color, the Japanese call it Aka-Fudō (赤不動).

Enoshima Daishi was completed in 1993 as a branch of Kagoshima’s Saifuku-ji Temple (最福寺) in the Kantō region. As Saifuku-ji is Kōyasan‘s sub-temple, Enoshima Daishi is linked to the sacred land established by Kōbō Daishi.

Visitors are welcome to tour freely inside the Hondō. Feel free to participate in the Gomagyō (護摩行) ritual. The purification ritual, which involves burning small pieces of holy (scented) wood before the Buddhist altar, is performed every day, usually at 10 or 10:30 in the morning.

You might find it weird when you take a closer look at the main image, Japan’s biggest Acala statue. Isn’t it supposed to be a red statue? The one in front of you is clearly black…

The redness of the Acala statue has been gradually stained black due to the smoke from the Gomagyō fire ritual. So if they perform a deep clean on the statue, the original red color should be exposed.

Embroidery Buddhist Painting (刺繍仏画) at Enoshima Daishi

Enoshima Daishi also has a resting area. From there, there are stairs to the ossuary in the basement.

While ossuary doesn’t sound too enticing, on the wall of the staircases leading to the back of the building are 18 impressive Buddhist embroidered tapestries. Those were all artworks by teenage Chinese ladies from long ago. The embroidery work is so detailed that they are almost like photos!

Enoshima Sea Candle (江の島シーキャンドル)

© Fujisawa City Tourist Association

Enoshima Sea Candle is a tower that can be seen even before you cross the Enoshima Bentan Bridge.

To celebrate Enoshima Electric Railway’s (江ノ島電鉄) 100-year anniversary, Japan’s first privately owned lighthouse was renovated and opened to the general public in 2003 as an observation tower.

Enoshima Sea Candle, situated at the highest point of Enoshima, is on the ground of Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden (江の島サムエル・コッキング苑), a botanical garden named after a British Merchant. Renovated to promote local tourism, solar energy-powered HID floodlights are installed at the tower’s base for lighting shows at night.

So if you aren’t under a time constraint, wait for the sunset and enjoy the fantastic show that has a theme matching the current season!

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On a sunny day, from the observation floor at an altitude of 101.5 meters, you will get a panorama view of Mt. Fuji, Izu Peninsula, Hakone, and even Bōsō Peninsula (房総半島). If the sky isn’t clouded, you might be able to see as far as Tokyo Sky Tree!

If you eat eggs, you can enjoy some delicious sweet french toast at LONCAFE, close to Enoshima Sea Candle.

Illumination Events at Enoshima Sea Candle

© Fujisawa City Tourist Association
  • Enoshima Lantern (江ノ島灯籠): A traditional lantern light-up event held from mid-July to August.
  • Shōnan Candle (湘南キャンドル): Around 10,000 candles are placed on the ground in Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden from mid-October to early November.
  • From late November to mid-February, the illumination event, Shōnan no Hōseki (湘南の宝石), is one of the three best illumination events in the Kantō region.

Tip: If you are interested in the illumination events, avoid weekends and public holidays if you don’t want to wait up to an hour for the elevator to the observation floor.

Why Was the Lighthouse Named Enoshima Sea Candle?

Well, because the lighthouse standing at the top of the hill looks like a candle on the sea. When the tower is lit up, it truly becomes one huge candle.

Enoshima Historical Exhibition

If you are interested in what Enoshima looked like in the past and the transformation of the old Enoshima lighthouse, the exhibition space filled with photos and old items on the first floor of the lighthouse is a great place to stop by.

Enoshima Sea Candle’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Enoshima Sea Candle and Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden is open from 9 am to 8 pm
    • The last admission is at 7:30 pm
  • The admission fee for Enoshima Sea Candle is
    • 500 yen for adults
    • 250 yen for children
  • The admission fee for Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden is
    • 200 yen for adults
    • 100 yen for children
  • Enoshima Sea Candle + Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden Set Ticket is priced at
    • 800 yen for adults
    • 400 yen for children
  • From 8:50 am to 7:05 pm, if you don’t want to climb hundreds of staircases, you can utilize Enoshima Escar, which will get you to the Enoshima Candle in around 5 minutes

Tip: Get the Enoshima 1-Day Passport (eno=pass) for unlimited access to Enoshima Escar, Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden, Enoshima Sea Candle, and Enoshima Iwaya Caves. The cost is 1,000 yen for adults and 500 yen for children.

Shima no Chaya Aburaya (島の茶屋あぶらや)

If you choose to hike your way up to Enoshima Shrine’s Okutsumiya, Shima no Chaya Aburaya is the perfect place to rest your legs. It is an oasis on a hot summer day or when the weather is freezing cold.

Enjoying a bowl of traditional desserts with a cup of tea or other drinks of your choice in the Japanese-style cafe is the best way to take your visit to Enoshima to the next level.

The staff here are all really nice. The interior of the cafe is like a ryokan’s lobby. If you are a bit hungry, give their Oyaki bun filled with vegetables a try.

Shima no Chaya Aburaya is open from 10 am to 5 pm except Tuesdays.

Enoshima Pancakes (江の島パンケーキ)

If you prefer Western-style desserts, consider Enoshima Pancakes on top of Enoshima’s western cliff. With your mouth enjoying the wobbly and fluffy pancakes, your eyes are also treated to the stunning view of Sagami Bay.

On a clear day, it is one of the best spots to adore the magnificent appearance of Mt. Fuji. Furthermore, as long as it isn’t rainy, the sunset from the pancake specialty shop is just splendid!

Enoshima Pancakes was originally a teahouse named Fujima Chaya that opened for the pilgrims in 1854. In 2011, it reopened after renovation as a pancake specialist. While the number of items on the menu is limited, all of them are deliciously made!

Tip: If you are a student, show your student ID to get a 500 yen discount for your pancake!

Enoshima Pancakes’ Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Enoshima Pancakes is open from 12 pm to 5 pm (last order)
    • It won’t close if the weather is bad
  • From Enoshima’s entrance, it is around a 25-minute walk

Inoue Sōhonpo Japanese Confectionary Shop (井上総本舗)

On Enoshima Shrine’s Nakamise-dōri Street, Inoue Sōhonpo is a Japanese confectionary shop that has been loved by the locals for almost the last 100 years (established in 1925). While there are a couple Manjū (Japanese sweet bean-paste bun) shops close by, Inoue Sōhonpo has been rated the best!

The white bun in the photo is sake-infused. When you bite into it, the light fragrance of sake will gradually spread in your mouth. The brown bun’s skin has a light taste of brown sugar, which is perfect when paired with the sugar-reduced red bean paste in the bun.

The current owner of Inoue Sōhonpo is the fourth generation. The belief that has been supporting him every day is he won’t let any customers say the taste of the shop has dropped. Instead, he wants them to give him the recognition that his buns taste even better than the ones made by the past three generations!

Since Mr. Inoue was young, he was surprised by the number of customers who told him that every time they come to Enoshima, they definitely stop by the shop for their signatory Manjū and shell-shaped Monaka (bean-paste-filled wafers).

The handmade bean-paste-filled wafers sold in Inoue Sōhonpo are handmade with the method passed down for generations. The crispy wafers are made with sticky rice flour. Between the two wafers is the bean paste made with high-quality azuki beans and sugar. On a hot summer day, many customers would go for their new item, Ice Monaka. On top of the bean paste, ice cream is sandwiched!

The shape of the Monaca was designed after five different types of shells. Each of them is the size of one mouthful. So how about ordering a set of Monaca and seeing how much the Monaca resembles the real shells?

The shop also has a dining area where other types of traditional desserts are served.

Refer to HERE for the menu and allergens information.

Inoue Sōhonpo’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • Inoue Sōhonpo is open
    • From 10 am to 5 pm on weekdays except for Tuesdays and Fridays
    • From 10 am to 6 pm for weekends and public holidays
  • The shop is a 12-minute walk from Odakyū’s Katase-Enoshima Station (片瀬江ノ島駅)

Important: Inoue Sōhonpo accepts cash only.

Cafe Maru (カフェーマル)

For all the cat lovers, stop by Cafe Maru. While it isn’t a cat cafe, you will most likely be welcomed by the cafe’s cat Tarō!

If Tarō’s cuteness has enchanted you, there are many original Tarō goods designed and handmade by the cafe’s owner, Ichinose, on sale.

If you aren’t into cats, what you still will want to drop by Cafe Maru is their handmade cakes and their nostalgic interior decorated with many antiques. Stepping into the cafe is like stepping into another world. The quiet and relaxing atmosphere inside the cafe forms a big contrast to the busy tourist area outside.

Cafe Maru’s Business Hours and Access Information

  • The cafe is open from 11:30 am to 6:30 pm daily except Thursdays.
  • Cafe Maru is just a one-minute walk away from the Bronze Torii Gate.

Ryūkō-ji Temple (龍口寺)

On your way back to your hotel, how about stopping by Ryūkō-ji Temple, which is very close to Enoshima Station?

Remember the five-head dragon who fell in love with Benzaiten in Enoshima’s legend? The temple is located in front of the mountain that the dragon transformed into at the mouth of his mouth, which is why it was named Ryūkō.

© Fujisawa City Tourist Association

Ryūkō-ji’s History and the Miracle that Saved Nichiren Shōnin

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The temple started as Ryūkomyō Shrine (龍口明神社), which the locals built to enshrine the dragon.

In the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333), the Tatsunokuchi execution site was located really close to the shrine. While the villagers were afraid that executing criminals so close to the precinct would anger the dragon, the location of the execution site turned out to be beneficial to the shrine.

In the late Kamakura period, after Nichiren Shōnin (日蓮上人) meditated in Enoshima Iwaya Caves, many gathered around Enoshima to learn and chant the Lotus Sutra (法華経) with him. They believed chanting the sutra contributed to the prosperity of the country. However, their kind thoughts have unsettled the Kamakura shogunate.

In 1271, Nichiren was caught by the Kamakura shogunate to be executed at the Tatsunokuchi execution site. But, something weird happened just before the knife was going to cut his head off. It is said that a bright light ball flew from Enoshima’s direction, and all of a sudden, the sky darkened, leaving the only light source being the bright light ball. Startled by what just happened, the official reported the mysterious scene, and an order to stop the execution was ordered by the Kamakura shogunate.

Nichiren was put back in jail and later exiled to Sado (佐渡) but returned to Kamakura in the end.

Treating the event as a miracle, Nichiren’s disciple, Nichihō (日法), preserved the scene by erecting a small hut soon after Nichiren passed away.

In 1337, Nichihō curved a statue of Nichiren and formally transformed the hut into a proper temple. Even today, you can still see the execution site behind the Niō-mon Gate (仁王門) when you visit Ryūkō-ji.

© Fujisawa City Tourist Association

Thanks to the contribution of the other six disciples, Ryūkō-ji became a large temple in 1357 that receives thousands of pilgrims each year who also stop by Ryūkomyō Shrine next door.

The Attractions in Ryūkō-ji

On the ground of Ryūkō-ji, you will see a small cave jail where Nichiren was confined before execution. Nowadays, a bronze Nichiren statue is enshrined.

If you stroll around the precinct, you will also encounter the only five-story wooden pagoda in Kanagawa Prefecture that was built in 1910. At the far left of Ryūkō-ji, the white round building is where the bone of Gautama Buddha is.

The Stupa was completed to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Nichiren’s execution. A golden Gautama Buddha is enshrined at the front of the building.

Tip: The bell in the bell tower can be knocked by the general public.

On the ground of the temple, you can adore different flowers throughout the year.

  • Cherry blossoms in spring
  • Ginkgo next to the Niō-mon Gate and fall foliage in autumn
  • Camellia in winter

Ryūkō-ji’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The temple’s office is open from 9 am to 4 pm
  • From Enoshima Electric Railway’s (江ノ島電鉄) Enoshima Station (江ノ島駅) and Shōnan Monorail’s (湘南モノレール) Shōnan Enoshima Station (湘南江の島駅), it is around a 3-minute walk
  • From Odakyu’s Katase-Enoshima Station (片瀬江ノ島駅), it is around a 15-minute walk

Note that the Ryūkomyō Shrine was relocated in 1978 to Kamakura.

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