If you have a long weekend coming up, or just a single day blessed with the balmy weather, consider a trip from Tokyo to Enoshima (江の島).
Located in Sagami Bay, the island has a circumference of 4km and is connected to land by bridge 600 meters in length. An hour or so from Tokyo by train, it’s a great choice for travelers seeking something different from the city
Legend has it that the Goddess of entertainment and music (Benzaiten) made the island rise up from the sea in the sixth century. The goddess is enshrined within Enoshima island. When you arrive on the island, you will see a narrow slope which is bordered on both sides by tourist shops selling nibbles and souvenirs. At the apex of the lane and down to the left, there is a ceramics shop selling beautiful gifts. In baskets on the table outside there are small items for 100 Yen each, like dishes painted with cute fish and chopstick rests in an assortment of designs.
The all-inclusive island ticket is 1,000 Yen and gives you entry to all the tourist spots, and, of course, use of the escalators. It is a small island but fairly steep in the middle. The first level of the island has a picturesque shrine, and a sweet little pond where people fill small baskets with coins to be washed in the crystal clear water.
Level Two gives dramatic views across the bay, and you will doubtless spend much time attempting to take the ‘perfect photograph’ of the impressive eagles that slowly swoop and circle overhead. Level Three is dominated by the Samuel Cocking Park. The British merchant, arriving at Enoshima by accident in 1880, developed a large botanical garden and greenhouse – it was the largest greenhouse in Japan at the time. After he died in 1914 the garden went to ruin, and the greenhouse collapsed during the Great Kanto earthquake a few years later. In the early 2000’s the brick foundation of the greenhouse and other parts were re-discovered. A restored greenhouse was constructed with the new garden and it now has over 500,000 visitors every year.
Enoshima Tower is also called the ‘Enoshima Sea Candle.’ It was built in 2003, and with a height of 40 meters, the observation deck is nearly 120m above sea level. There are striking views both out to sea and of Sagami bay and on a very fine day you can even see Fuji in the distance.
The island ticket includes entry to the Iwaya caves. Located on the West side of the island, the caves have been around since at least 552 AD. In 1993, the caves were repaired and these days are pretty much the most popular part of the island. Tourists are provided with candles to guide them in through grottos, so it’s very atmospheric with flickering light glinting off the water. Legend tells of a secret passageway in the cave that goes all the way to Mt. Fuji.
While quite touristy and crowded in places, the island is a calming break from Tokyo life and a great way to relax on a sunny day!