If you were to think of the most famous sightseeing spots in Japan, what would they be? You may think of Mount Fuji or the Great Wall of China, but did you know that the most visited site in the country is also one of the most beautiful? The answer to this question comes from a beautiful hike you can make in the Tokyo-Yokohama region.
I f you’re looking for a long weekend in the country, then find Yokohama a scratchy suburb of Tokyo, then Enoshima a small coastal town in Kanagawa prefecture, then Yokohama city itself is an urban sprawl with no easy-to-spot landmarks or monuments, then you’ll be missing out.
There are many hot and humid summer days when Japan’s capital city is engulfed in a blanket of smog and humidity. And it’s easy to be seduced into staying inside and pulling the shades down. However, one of the best ways for tourists to really enjoy their time in Japan is to venture out and discover the country’s unique culture, beautiful nature and amazing history.
Cherise Fong wrote this article.
As Tokyo’s summer heat increases, it’s easy to forget how much more there is to see and do down south by the bays, only a stone’s throw (or 30 minutes by train) from the city.
Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city, is best known for its memorial gardens and forward-looking harborfront, which have been accessible to the public since 1859. So one morning, I boarded a Shinjuku-bound train bound for Minato Mirai, Yokohama’s lively, multicultural waterfront district.
I entered the brand-new YOKOHAMA AIR CABIN from Sakuragi-cho station, an urban ropeway that links the station to Unga Park across the canal. Each translucent, naturally air-conditioned cabin provides a pleasant view of the promenade and lots of fresh ocean air, like quiet bubbles spread over the sea. The thrilling trip lasts approximately 10 minutes and is the ideal way to get to know Yokohama’s beautiful harborfront.
I saw YOKOHAMA STADIUM, which is world-famous for holding international baseball and softball tournaments, not far away. I was thrilled to see the flags of this year’s participating countries fluttering above the stands, even if I couldn’t watch the game live.
Yokohama Stadium is a stadium in Yokohama, Japan (photo by Toshiko Sakurai)
Instead, I ducked out of the hot sun and into Craft Beer Dining &9 (pronounced yakyu, like baseball in Japanese) for taco rice and a cool ale brew. Note to yakyu fans: the beer taps are topped with vintage baseballs and broken bats used by the local Yokohama DeNA Bay Stars team.
Yokohama’s Craft Beer (photo by Toshiko Sakurai)
I saw a large multicolored contraption on Yamashita pier after passing through Yamashita Park. It was a life-size “Moving Gundam,” the famous anime gigantic robot that was 18 meters tall! There was also a “ACADEMY” where you could enjoy and learn about the “Moving Gundam’s” moving mechanism, as well as a “Pilot perspective experience” where you could ride in the cockpit. GUNDAM FACTORY YOKOHAMA provides dreams through developing research and technology that makes the world of imagination a reality, in addition to delighting Gundam enthusiasts.
Despite the fact that I am not a geek, I was enthralled by the eight-minute spectacle of Gundam emerging from its dock and kneeling before pointing skyward in the final firing position. GUNDAM FACTORY YOKOHAMA is a one-time-only attraction that will close on March 31, 2022.
Yokohama Gundam Factory (photo by Toshiko Sakurai)
I chose to spend the remainder of my day at Sankeien, a historical garden tucked away in a more residential area near Negishi Bay, after seeing that amazing experiment of larger-than-life retro-futuristic entertainment.
Sankeien is named after Hara Sankei, its founder, curator, and guardian, a philanthropist entrepreneur and tea ceremony enthusiast who was born in 1868, the year of the Meiji Restoration, and died just before WWII. Sankei developed a vast plot of land into a private collection of restored historical structures (Inner Garden) and a magnificent Outer Garden that has been accessible to the public from 1906 during the final 30 years of his life.
Yokohama’s Sankeien Garden (photo by Toshiko Sakurai)
With its smoking irori (sunken hearth) and gassho-style thatched roof characteristic of the Shirakawa-go hamlet in Hida (a UNESCO World Heritage site), where it was originally situated, the Yanohara Family Residence stands out among the transferred architectural structures. Before departing, I went to the top of Sankeien’s famous Three-Story Pagoda, which was constructed in Kyoto prefecture in 1457, to reflect on the site’s rich history.
Back in Minato Mirai, I checked in at THE KAHALA HOTEL & RESORT YOKOHAMA for a touch of Hawaii in Japan. My evening began with a gourmet Japanese dinner accompanied by three different styles of fine green tea at Hama restaurant and ended with a long soak in the bubbling jacuzzi on the outdoor roof deck with a view of the stars.
The Kahala Hotel & Resort Yokohama (photo by Toshiko Sakurai)
The spiritual journey down Enoshima’s high cliffs, all the way down to the Iwaya caves, where its first shrines were constructed in 552, is the island’s most famous feature.
Fujisawa is the mythical island’s entrance, as well as the 6th stop on the historic Tokaido pilgrimage route from Edo to Kyoto. So I was thrilled to start my coastal adventure by visiting the Fujisawa Ukiyo-e Museum, which has a collection of woodcut works by famous woodblock artist Hiroshige and others portraying the area during the late Edo era. From dramatic ensemble views of Enoshima life with Mt. Fuji in the horizon to parodic depictions of mermaid-like female abalone divers, the prints cover a wide variety of subjects.
Ukiyoe Museum is a museum dedicated to the Japanese artist Ukiyo (photo by Toshiko Sakurai)
My first delight upon arriving on the Odakyu train line was alighting at the brightly painted Katase-Enoshima station, which was inspired by Japanese folklore’s underwater Dragon Palace. My journey started with a stroll along Subana-dori, a street packed with Hawaii-themed cafés, snacks, souvenirs, and sports stores.
I stopped at the pier for Bentenmaru, a tourist boat that provides a beautiful six-minute trip straight to Chigogafuchi on the other side of the island, before crossing Bentenbashi bridge. It wasn’t operating that day since departure timings are unpredictable and vary according on the season and weather.
But I was delighted to enter Enoshima via the “front door” by crossing the footbridge, which seemed like entering a modern-day ukiyo-e with the Sea Candle lighthouse towering above the trees. I walked through the island’s ancient bronze torii and up Benzaiten Nakamise street toward Enoshima Shrine, the island’s spiritual heart.
On my walk up via Monzenmachi (temple town), I saw Asahi Honten’s red octopus on the left. This flagship store is known for its takoyaki senbei, which are big flat rice crackers with at least one entire octopus, if not shrimp or local shirasu whitebait, and are freshly pressed on the spot. I bit into the shop’s original unique blue senbei enhanced with multicolor-dyed shirasu for a crispy delight, irresistibly drawn to the visual candy.
Hetsumiya Shrine is a shrine in Hetsumiya, Japan (photo by Toshiko Sakurai)
The first and biggest of the three major shrines I saw was Hetsumiya, dedicated to the goddess Tagitsuhime, after passing through the majestic white Zuishinmon gatehouse at the top of the street. The Enoshima Shrine crest, showing three triangular scales encircled by approaching waves, was visible on the roof and lanterns of the main structure.
I was blessed with a great view of Enoshima’s famous Yacht Harbor as I walked up the stairs leading to the next shrine. In 1964, it was constructed specifically to hold international sailing events, and it will do so again in 2021. Local boat races are also conducted here on certain weekends.
Enoshima Yacht Harbour is located in Enoshima, Japan (photo by Toshiko Sakurai)
I went on to the vermilion-colored Nakatsumiya, where the goddess Ichikishimahime is enshrined. This more colorful temple, which was erected in 853, was renovated and repainted brilliant red in 1996. The stone lanterns were given by kabuki actor guilds, since Enoshima was formerly a famous pilgrimage destination for the artistically minded.
I approached Okutsumiya, the cliffside shrine dedicated to Takirihime, who watches over a calm sea in a region prone to typhoons, on the opposite side of the island. The lair-like Wadatsuminomiya, which enshrines the Dragon God with its truly over-the-top stone dragon image stretched over the entryway, drew me in especially.
It was beyond lunchtime, so I went to Uomitei, one of many cliffside eateries with a view of Mt. Fuji looking west. For more than 140 years, they’ve been serving hungry visitors shirasu-don and their own unique Enoshima don (turban shell combined with egg) rice bowls. I decided to eat their beautifully cooked sashimi (raw fish), which was freshly caught in Sagami Bay.
Stairs went down from the eateries to Chigogafuchi, a rocky beach named after a young Buddhist page who died in the deep waters’ “abyss.” Nonetheless, I thought this sea-eroded plateau teeming with marine life to be the island’s most naturally beautiful location—and a great place to view the sunset over Mt. Fuji from sea level.
I followed the cement path into the caverns that house Enoshima’s spiritual cradle: Iwaya. The vast tunnels were smooth surfaced and softly lighted on the inside, with educational displays about Enoshima’s history and culture along the walls. As the route proceeded through dripping stalactites into the deep holy place, they ultimately gave way to walls of donated sculptures.
I made a visit to Ryuko-ji, a calmer temple at the top of Subana-dori that provides a large refuge away from the area’s major attractions. A veiled zelkova-wood five-story pagoda rises at the top of the hill, surrounded by covered stairs and quiet walkways. I eventually sat down to relax in front of the serene white stupa of the temple.
To learn more about these destinations, please visit Kanagawa Prefectural Government at https://trip.pref.kanagawa.jp and Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau at https://www.yokohamajapan.com.
As the weather gets warmer, many of us are in the habit of heading out for a day trip, or even lots of days in a row. But with summer temperatures in Japan, you might be wondering whether it’s really fair to take day trips during the hottest season. Nevertheless, that’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be traveling from Yokohama to Enoshima Island in the Seto Inland Sea, which will be a good way for me to get used to the humidity in Japan.. Read more about enoshima map and let us know what you think.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- enoshima aquarium
- enoshima island
- enoshima beach
- enoshima shrine
- enoshima map