Enoshima is a small island at the mouth of the Katase River in Kanagawa Prefecture. Nestled in place are caves called “Iwaya” which have been eroded by tides over thousands of years. It has quite a long history with its first ever recorded historical document in 552 AD. It then became a tourist spot for people who want to enjoy a pleasant setting by the sea.
Almost 1,500 years ago, the ancient Kinmei Emperor received an oracle advising him to build a shrine in a cave. It was followed by many years of religious worships, pilgrimages, and practices done by several monks and samurais. Some of these monks were renowned such as En-no-ozunu, Kuhkai, En-nin, and Nichiren. It further came to a point when the entire island became a religious sanctuary visited by many devotees and worshipers. Over time, it became a tourist hotspot which drew many visitors every year. Somehow it lost a little bit of its essence as a holy place but its mystic charm still remains.
Enoshima Island is just 72 minutes away from central Tokyo. The caves are located at the back of the island where you need to climb a series of steps before reaching it. You can also make it easier by taking the escalator for a small fee. At the west end of the islet, you have to descend 220 steps to sea level. If this is too much for you or inconvenient, you can ride a ferry going there from the mainland. However, there is no fixed schedule on this as it depends on the weather condition as well as the time of the year.
You need to pay 500 entrance fee if you want to explore the cave. Upon turning left, you will go through the first cave which is 152 meters long. You will find many framed photos hung on the walls. If you walk further along, you will see it branching into two with the right one called “Kongo” and the left one called “Taizo.” You will see numerous stone statues related to the Shingon sect of Buddhism.
The mystic charm of Iwaya Caves appears to attract many curious visitors to the island. Its adventurous pathways and long, narrow, and dimly lit tunnels make for a mysterious setting that is intriguing to unearth.