Enoshima: More Than Just a Day at the Beach
By Andrew Smith on 25 Jul 2016
When people visit Tokyo, they tend to stay within the city marvelling at all the bright lights and skyscrapers. The usual line of thought is that if you want to see a bustling Japanese metropolis, visit Tokyo, and if you want a nice beach vacation, visit places like Okinawa. However, one of my favorite things about living here is its variety and accessibility making easy to hop on a train for a bit and end up in a completely different environment. While summer in the city is great with all its festivals, fireworks, and beer gardens, there’s no getting around the blistering heat, so why not make the best of it? Instead of running around Tokyo like a bead of water skittering across a hot frying pan, take a reasonably short train ride to the beach where taking off your shirt and lying on the ground is considered a form of relaxation rather than a desperate attempt to fend off a heatstroke.
Enoshima offers everything you need from a beach vacation in Japan, and it’s only about an hour outside of Tokyo by train. I took the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku, and it was very comfortable and provided some great views of the countryside along the way. Immediately after exiting the station I was greeted by a large welcome sign with all of Enoshima’s points of interest plotted out in English. Although I was eager to start running around the beach and covering my body with sand, I thought I’d first get into the island mood by enjoying a big lunch at one of the many Hawaiian restaurants. There are some fantastic places to eat around the station, but on the weekend it can get pretty crowded. Be prepared to wait for a table, or you could just fill up on shaved ice and other tasty summertime snacks.
Despite Enoshima’s best efforts to convince you that you’re in The Aloha State with its themed restaurants and decorations, the water wasn’t fooling anybody. I definitely don’t mean to say that the water is disgusting, but it isn’t suitable for snorkeling or other activities like that. Surfers still have no trouble catching waves though, and beachgoers of all kinds enjoy playing sports, sunbathing, having a few drinks, or simply taking long walks across the soft white sand. I also noticed a few people on jet skis or making good use of other rentals in the area. The beach seems to be popular with young people, and has a very local feel even though it happens to be so close to Tokyo. A good balance of fun and relaxation is struck making it a great stop for anyone ready to soak in some rays.
Sufficiently baked by the sun, I decided to make my way over the small Enoshima island at around 5pm. There are even more restaurants and shops waiting on the other end of the bridge leading up to the steps of Enoshima Shrine. No trip in Japan, even a summer beach romp, is complete without a quick visit to the local temple or shrine. This one happens to be devoted to the goddess of music, knowledge, wealth, and good fortune. I wish I had known that at the time. I would have stayed a bit longer and prayed. The journey ended up being quite fortuitous anyway, though. Luckily as I made it up to the top of Enoshima, the sun had just begun its descent beyond the horizon and a cool breeze kicked up.
After resting my legs a little and admiring the ocean view from a lovely cafe, I bought myself a ticket to the Samuel Cocking Garden and Sea Candle. On the way to the Sea Candle observation tower, many couples were enjoying a romantic walk through the botanical garden under the soft, warm glow of the setting sun. Of course the garden was very beautiful, but it was nothing compared to the view from the Sea Candle. From either of the two decks, you can get a 360 degree view of Enoshima, and on a clear enough day, Mt. Fuji is even visible.
I was tempted to spend the rest of the daylight staring out across the sea from the Tower, but then I spotted an interesting place on the southern side of the island that I wanted to get to before the sun went down. In contrast to the sandy beach on the mainland, the southern coast of Enoshima is covered in rough, rocky formations that are great for couples to scale up and perch on as they watch the sunset. Japanese society isn’t too keen on public displays of affection, but if it were America, this would definitely be the “makeout point” of the community. The dark, rough rocks against the creamy, orange sunset made a great view. If I had to choose, this spot would be my “must-see” of the whole trip, but if your grumbling stomach or throbbing calves just can’t take anymore hikings, there are a few traditional Japanese style restaurants along the way that offer a fantastic view of the sunset while you eat.
After sunset I carefully walked back to the mainland and enjoyed a few drinks on a quiet restaurant balcony along the coast while I reflected on the day. I only had to ride the train for about an hour, but I really felt like I was on vacation. The relaxing atmosphere and cool ocean breeze was a much needed change from my daily life in Tokyo. I happened to spend most of my time in Enoshima hiking because that’s usually what I prefer doing, but there is so much more to do in Enoshima. Aquariums, caves, temples, museums, and spas welcome guests from all around for some great memories. I can’t believe that it was my first time to go to Enoshima, and I can’t wait to go back. So, take a break from fighting the crowds in the city. For a great summer around Tokyo, just add water!
Andrew is an American writer living in Tokyo, Japan. He often finds himself wandering home from a livehouse after missing the last train. As an outdoors enthusiast, musician, traveler and editor, he stays pretty busy, but he is still always looking for new things to try. The only thing more unorganised than his schedule is his room.