There are three key dating spots around Tokyo that locals always talk about. The first is in Odaiba, the second in Yokohama and the third is the small seaside town of Enoshima – a short ride west of Kamakura. However, bustling with tourists and fishermen, the island is a beloved sightseeing spot for everyone. Even if you don’t have a special person to take, Enoshima is still an amazing area that anyone can enjoy.
One of the main draw cards of Enoshima is the island itself. Linked via the Benten-bashi Bridge, it’s a 20 minute walk from the mainland to the island’s many attractions. Here are some of the island’s major spots to check out.
Crossing the bridge to get to Enoshima island, the shopping street is the only street in front of you, slopping upwards as it leads to a temple. The street is full of souvenir shops, snacks shops, restaurants and cafes, and on weekends it’s quite crowded. The street starts with a greenish torii gate and ends with the first red torii gate of Enoshima shrine. This is also where you can choose to go up an escalator to the top of the island, or you could walk.
The three shrines, Hetsumiya 辺津宮, Nakatsumiya 中津宮 (pictured above) and Okutsumiya 奥津宮 (in walking-order), are known collectively as the Enoshima Jinja. Some say the shrines are the oldest in Kanto dating back to 552AD, yet the existing shrines, as they stand today, date back to 853AD for Nakatsumiya and 1206AD for the Hetsumiya. Each shrine has its deity, as well as its own Goshuin, stamp which makes for an excellent souvenir.
Living up to its romantic spot reputation, you will see a lot of heart-shaped symbols and prayer tablets around the shrines, as people believe praying here brings good luck in love. It is also believed it brings good fortune to artists and creatives.
The island has many great views, from anywhere you look at. Walking around the island, different panoramas open on every corner, each one overlooking the sea. Many cafes and restaurants dot the coast, especially near the bridge, and almost all of them have a view. If you want to go even higher, you can climb the Enoshima Lighthouse ion the top of the island, for a small fee. The whole island has amazing sunset views, and on some days you can even see Mount Fuji – which is visible either from the island itself or the bridge way.
The Enoshima caves called Iwaya caves have been created as the waves had been slowly eroding the rock. They are on the west side of the island, and can be either reached directly by a boat ride from the mainland, or walking as you get down from the top of the island. Apart from being great natural phenomena, the caves are also cultural landmarks having been connected to many legends. One of the caves was also the original place of Enoshima Shrine, and there are still many religious statues and symbols inside. The view of the sea and shore from the caves entrances is a great photo spot, and one of the best places to see Mt. Fuji at sunset.
A very popular spot on the island is the Enoshima Onsen, the spa that has both onsen hot springs and a heated outdoor swimming pool. Especially frequented by couples, it’s a very romantic spot.
Another really popular place near Enoshima is the newly rebuilt aquarium. Like the island itself, it too is filled on the weekend with couples, as well as young children. Inside, the exhibits are well maintained and the live dolphin and penguin shows are a real treat.
The aquarium focuses primarily on Japan’s seas and the Pacific region. Each area within the aquarium is dedicated to a section of the ocean’s floor and the species that inhabit it. The two highlights are the massive aquarium tank that greets you when you enter the aquarium, and the Jelly Fish Hall. The mixed aquarium tank has a host of fish, including several very large and surprisingly playful stingrays and sharks. The schools of fish that swim around in unison make for an excellent photography opportunity.
Along the beachfront which borders the aquarium, are a series of places to sit, relax, enjoy an ice cream and feel the fresh breeze that comes up from the ocean. The beach even has its own wildlife – the Japanese Hawk, which can often be seen hovering above the shoreline, searching for food. These magnificent animals are usually overlooked by tourists, but they can actually swoop in and grab your food, so be careful!
Accessing Enoshima is relatively simple. You can either go to the Enoshima Station JR or Katase-enoshima Station Odakyu Line – they have direct lines from Shinjuku and Shimokitazawa at some times of the day. It will take you roughly an hour from central Tokyo. You can also try using the less crowded and more interesting Shonan-Enoshima Station which can be accessed via the wonderfully quaint Shonan Monorail.
Once arriving at the stations, you can walk the bridge to Enoshima island, or you can take a quick boat ride if you want to get in the ocean a little bit.
Whatever route you take, Enoshima is a great place to visit. Combining nature, history and culture, it is a wonderful place to escape the city. And, while it really is a popular place for couples, there are many single people or groups of friends who come to enjoy the atmosphere … and, who knows, perhaps while there you might meet someone special…
: AC photo/