NAF Atsugi | .
published: May 12, 2018
South of Tokyo and lying within the shadow of Mount Fuji is an area of Kanagawa that is an anomaly compared to the rest of the region, Enoshima. Soaked in sunlight, with salt from the ocean in the air, palm trees lining the streets and art deco architecture, visitors might mistake it for South Beach in Miami or Southern California instead of Japan.
Enoshima lies at the edge of the city of Fujisawa and next to Sagamai Bay on the coast. The area consists of the town on the coastline, the beaches and the namesake of the location, Enoshima Island. The island was originally dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of music and entertainment, Benzaiten or Benten. Legend has it that the goddess is the one who rose the island from the sea and in turn a shrine on the island was dedicated to her. In 1880, after the Shinto and Buddhism separation order of the new Meiji government had made the land available, much of the uplands was purchased by Samuel Cocking, a British merchant, in his Japanese wife’s name. Today, the area is a part of Shōnan, a popular resort destination along the coast which is centered on Enoshima.
Visitors can reach Enoshima by taking the Odakyū Enoshima Line from Yamato Station and traveling to Katase-Enoshima Station. Once outside the station, visitors will first notice the unique design of the station itself which resembles a Ryūgū-jō, or Dragon palace of the sea. The station square is populated with tourists from all over Kanagawa, local eateries serve Hawaiian inspired food, and many surfboard rental shops are available for anyone needing gear to surf the waves of Sagami Bay.
Going south from the train station is the main strip of the city. Next to the beach is the Enoshima to guests and features various exhibits that detail the importance of the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it. Special exhibitions highlight sea life native to the local Sagami Bay and the Pacific Ocean, one featuring the study of local sea life by the late Emperor Hirohito and his son, the reigning Emperor, Akihito. Special times throughout the day have different shows where visitors can feed and pet dolphins or see the Enosui Treaters, the facility’s animal trainers, with the different animals and sea life at the aquarium.
On the other side of the aquarium lies the beaches of Enoshima. The beaches are separated by the pier leading to Enoshima Island. The first feature that will be noticed by vistitors almost immediately is the black sands of Katase Higashi-hama Beach which is the result of volcanic eruptions. Enoshima is also known for its warm waters due to Sagami Bay receiving both warm and cold water currents from the ocean. Surfing and sailing are the most notable hobbies in the area, with Enoshima being so known for its waves it was selected as a site for the inaugural surfing competition events for the Olympics during the 2020 Tokyo games.
During the summer, many bars and restaurants are set up in makeshift storefronts on the beach but watch out, Enoshima is also home to a large volume of Taka, or Hawks, who have a habit of snatching food from guests or taking small animals.
Further out in the bay is Enoshinma Island, the namesake of the area. The island is accessible both by boat and a bridge that goes from the port to the shores of the island. Notable features of the island are the shrine to the patron Buddhist goddess, the Samuel Cocking Garden which also features a 197 foot observation tower. Vistors can also go below the island into the southern Iwaya Caves and explore the coast. For couples stands the Love Bell on the island’s hill. The local legend says that Benten married a sea dragon in order stop him from ravaging the island with waves. Couples ring the bell twice and write their names on locks left on a gate by the bell.
For visitors looking to escape the hustle and bustle of modern day Tokyo and just enjoy a more laid back and casual place, Enoshima is it. From the good food, the local sights or just having a nice day at the beach, Enoshima has everything that a lone guest or family could want to relax and enjoy the season but just watch out for hawks!