Traditional Japanese sweets on Enoshima
In the fall of 2019, we went on our long-awaited first trip to Japan. For about 2,5 weeks we ate as much as we could & explored Tokyo and its surrounding areas. And even though 2,5 weeks was not nearly enough to even fully experience Tokyo itself, we had a lot of unique experiences & made great memories. And one of my favorite memories from that trip has to be when we visited Enoshima, a small island southwest of Tokyo.
A day trip only one hour away from Tokyo
I personally love the bustling city life of Tokyo, but if you’re looking for some peace and quiet, it’s honestly never far away in Japan. Whether it’s a hidden shrine in the middle of the city or one of the many day trips you can go on from Tokyo, there’s plenty of choices.
We went to Enoshima by metro & train and I would recommend you to do the same. There’s always a metro station within walking distance when you’re in Tokyo. Besides, Japan’s public transport is pretty cheap, efficient, and very punctual. And I just love watching the changing scenery as you slowly travel out of the city.
The trip will take a little over one hour from Tokyo, depending on what exact station you’re departing at. We specifically chose Enoshima Station as our destination, which will have you transfer at either Fujisawa or Ōfun Station.
From Fujisawa Station, you’ll be riding a cute, oldfashioned looking train for the last 7 minutes of your trip. And because there’s only one set of rails, it really feels like you’re in the middle of the neighborhoods that you’re passing through along the way. It may only be 7 minutes, but I do recommend this for the views alone.
If you transfer at Ōfun station however, you’ll be riding a suspended monorail for the remaining 15 minutes of your trip. Since you’re up in the air, the Shonan Monorail provides not only its own unique experience, but you’ll also be able to see more of your surroundings.
Crossing the bridge to the island
From Enoshima Station, it’s about an 8-minute walk to the coastline. It’s just a single street that leads up from the station directly to the island bridge. During your walk, you’ll encounter numerous little cafes & gift shops, and if needed you can also stock up on some drinks at the 7-Eleven or Lawson on the way.
At the end of the street you’ll see a crossing. Just before the actual crossing there’s a pedestrian tunnel on your right that will take you to the other side. Once on the other side, you will first pass through the Imperial Palace Memorial Shrine, which has a small garden & beautiful stone lanterns, before actually crossing the water.
Walking across the bridge you get a great view of the ocean, the surrounding bay area, and if the weather is on your side, even mount Fuji in the distance!
Freshly grilled Mitarashi Dango
Once you’ve crossed the bridge, you’ll find lots of different eateries to your left. Since Enoshima’s an island right before the coast of the Sagami bay, you’ll find that a lot of the local restaurants offer a variety of fresh seafood dishes.
If you continue on straight however, you’ll see the Enoshima shopping street, marked by the green Torii gate. This street is filled with cute little souvenir shops, some a bit more touristy, others with somewhat more traditional goods.
But for me, this street was really all about the street food.
I noticed a lady grilling something in a bakery shop. When we came closer, I saw she was grilling fresh dango on a charcoal grill. Dango is a sweet that is made from different types of rice flour which creates a soft and bouncy texture. They are often served on a skewer and can be enjoyed with lots of different toppings.
I had seen dango in videos & series before, and now I could finally taste it for myself! There were a couple of different flavors to choose from, but I decided to go with the mitirashi dango, which is covered with a sweet soy-based syrup.
I awkwardly ordered a couple of skewers (for only 150 yen apiece) in my best Japanese, which somehow resulted in my first full-on Japanese conversation!
Satisfied by my small victory I started on my mitarashi dango, and I have to tell you, it was amazing! The slightly charred and crispy outside combined with the soft and fluffy inside of the dango made for a very pleasant contrast. The salty, yet slightly sweet syrup on top of the dango gave it that wonderful umami flavor. Honestly the perfect snack for someone like me, who isn’t a big fan of overly sweet things. I’m really glad that I finally got to try it. When thinking back on it though, I am kinda sad that I didn’t get the anko (sweet red bean paste) one as well. So please learn from my mistake! 😉
Lots of stairs, temples & breathtaking views
When you’re planning on exploring Enoshima, or Japan in general for that matter, just be sure to wear suitable hiking shoes. Because you’ll be needing them! Enoshima has a lot of temples, scattered across the island, easily accessible via the stairs at the end of the shopping street.
If you’re not physically able to hike all the way to the top, or just not feeling up to it, there’s another way however! The Enoshima ESCAR: an outdoor, paid escalator service that you can take all the way to the top. The ESCAR also stops multiple times along the way so that you’ll be able to enjoy all the temples nonetheless. All for the small fee of ¥360 for adults (about €2,75 or US$3,20).
My favorite part of Enoshima was by far the top of the island. After walking and climbing all those stairs we were greeted by the fresh ocean breeze and a beautiful view of the ocean itself. While strolling through the garden we saw a lot of hawks soaring through the sky and gliding the wind. You can get a good view of them and the bay area on the wooden observation deck that is situated there. It’s a great place to just sit back and relax for a bit. Just be mindful when eating around the hawks, the Black Kite hawk is known to pluck the food right from your hands if you’re not careful.
On the top of the island, you will, without a doubt, catch a glimpse of the famous Enoshima Sea Candle: a modern lighthouse with a viewing platform at the top. The Enoshima Sea Candle is surrounded by a beautiful botanic garden, both are accessible for a small fee.
From the top, you can choose to either go back down to the shopping street or to venture forth to the other side of the island, depending on your schedule for the day. There’s one long street that goes down to the beach and cavern on the other side, with lots of little shops and small eateries along the way.
Many people combine their day-trip to Enoshima with a trip to the nearby city of Kamakura, which is famous for its Giant Buddha statue. Depending on how much time you want to spend at Enoshima, I think it’s definitely doable. But if you really want to just stroll around and relax, I recommend spending the night in the surrounding area & spending a full day in Kamakura as well. Kamakura has lots of stands with delicious street food as well, and one can only eat so much in a day, right? 😉