"Island of the bay"
Enoshima is a small island in Sagami Bay southwest of Tokyo in Japan. It sits at the
mouth of the Katase River, and is just south of Fujisawa city, to which it is joined by a bridge 600 meters
long. Fujisawa is home to Shonan beach, which is one of the nearest beaches to metropolitan Tokyo, so it is usually mobbed - especially since everyone in Tokyo has the same days off, and the same vacation schedule. However, surf shops dot the beach and you can rent wind-surfing equipment and cruise around Sagami Bay with a nice view of Mt. Fuji. Sounds nice, but remember - "If you want to sail, you must bring only one towel."1
The main attraction of the island is Enoshima Shrine, which houses the hadaka benzaiten (or hadaka benten), a naked statue of Benzaiten, the goddess of beauty.
How to get there
According to a nifty route and fare caluclator at http://www.zone81.com/arch_sections/trains/japan_travel_calculator,
there are a couple different ways to get there. From Shinjuku, you can take the Odakyu limited express direct to Katase-Enoshima station and walk from there. You can take the Odakyu Odawara line to Sagamiono station, then change to the Odakyu Enoshima line and take it to Katase-Enoshima station and walk from there. If you want to take the Enoshima Railway, or Enoden (from Enoshima Densetsu), you can take the Tokaido line from Shinagawa to Fujisawa, then ride the Enoden from there to Katase-Enoshima. Or take the Yokosuka line to Kamakura station and change to the Enoden there. Incidentally, probably the best way to get to the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Kamakura is to take the Enoden to Hase station.
History of Enoshima Island
The ocean begins eroding parts of the island, which will result in the Iwaya caves. After 5800 years, they
will look good enough to inspire the artist Hiroshige to feature them in one of his ukiyoe prints
A tutelary shrine is established on the island. Enoshima Shrine actually holds three smaller shrines, each dedicated to one of three Shinto sea-goddesses. - Hentsu Shrine is dedicated Princess Tagitsu, the Nakatsu Shrine is dedicated to Princess Ichikishima, and the Okutsu Shrine is dedicated to Princess Tagiri. These are the goddesses of land, sea transport and fisheries - I couldn't tell you which is which, though.2 These goddesses are enshrined a lot of other places as well. For instance, at Miyajima.
Also, according to legend, 552 was the year in which, after a terrible earthquake and lights flashing in the sky, Enoshima island appeared in the sea, and a woman appeared in the sky. The woman was the water nymph Benzaiten - the goddess whose naked statue resides in Enoshima Shrine. It is said that Enoshima island appeared to accept her footsteps as she descended from the sky. She came to stop a five-headed dragon from tormenting the local villagers.3
late Edo period (ca 1780-1820)
July 17 - August 18, 1877
Edward S. Morse rents a hut on Enoshima island in order to study the local brachiopods. He later publishes a
memoir Japan Day by Bay which covers his stay there. A memorial to Morse is located next to the Enoshima end of the bridge between the island and Fujisawa city.
A few weeks earlier Morse had founded Japanese archaealogy by looking out of a
train window. Riding through Tokyo's Setagaya neighborhood, he noticed
large mounds of white shells. Upon subsequent investigation, they were
found to be the remains of kitchen refuse piles used by some of the earliest
inhabitants of the region. They are now known as the Omori Shell Mounds or Omori Kazuka.
Morse also served as instructor in the faculty of science at the new University
of Tokyo (then known as Tokyo Imperial University), and was awarded the Order
of the Rising Sun in 1898.5
Samuel Cocking, an English merchant, opens his garden to the public. He had bought a lot of land on the island with money he had made in the herb trade after coming to Japan in 1868. On this land he created the largest European-style garden then in Japan, and he opened it to the public in this year. It later became the Enoshima Botanical Garden.6
Meiji Period 1868-1912
The Buddhist great temple of Enoshima is destroyed in accordance with the government policy to promote Shintoism at the expense of Buddhism
Kodama Shrine is built to worship the soul of General Gentaro Kodama, who served during the Meiji Period. The dog-statues of the shrine are presents from the people of Taiwan(!).
The Olympics come to Japan. The yachting club on Enoshima island hosts the sailing events for the games.7
The Shingonshu Buddhist sect rebuilds the Great Temple of Enoshima. It features the largest Nio, or temple guardian statues, in Japan. They are 6 meters tall.
A large bell is erected on "Lovers Hill". I guess the island was running out of spots where tourists could take pictures of each other. This is supposed to have some relation to the legend of Benzaiten.
Enoshima was a popular subject of ukiyoe prints during the Edo period. Some of the artists who featured Enoshima in their prints are:
You might remember me from such films as...
Enoshima island and the Enoshima train line are both featured in Akira Kurosawa
's High and Low
. The house where Shinichi, the chauffeur's son, is held during his kidnapping is in the resort area near Enoshima. He draws a picture of Mt Fuji as seen from where he was taken. The police search for a place which matches the picture, which features what looks like a peninsula but is really Enoshima island.
Also, one of the policemen overhears a train in the background while listening to a tape recording of one of the kidnapper's phone calls. They take the tape to a railroad employee who identifies the sound as being distinctive of the Enoshima rail line.
Notes - References / Further Reading
2Japan National Touristm Organization http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/RTG/RI/kanto/kanagawa/enosima/enosima.html
also see the Wikipedia entries for "Benzaiten" and "Enoshima Engi" at www.wikipedia.org
4 Fujisawa tourist website
5more on Edward Morse:
A lot of this information came from Fujisawa city's website: http://www.cityfujisawa.ne.jp/kankou/english/ht_mido/index.htm