Before arriving in Japan, I never thought that in this country, the culture of the bicycle was so rooted and appreciated. Both in the city and in the country, you can find adolescents, mothers, salarymen and the elderly, that use this transportation as there are no other.
Japan is the seventh country in the world regarding the number of bicycles per inhabitant. About 57% of the population are cyclists (which does not seem much against 99.1% in the Netherlands, but it is always a very good result).
In addition to daily appointments such as school, work or other expenses, the bicycle can become a great vehicle when it comes to exploring different parts of the country. Yes, because although Japan is the country of punctuality and efficiency of transportation, it is also great when we talk about infrastructure and network of roads for those who prefer a bit of movement in the open air.
Both me and Yo are inexperienced cyclists, but until now, we have ventured into beautiful journeys that have made us fall in love with this way of traveling, made of sweat, laughter, sunburn under the crazy summer sun and so much satisfaction.
One of those adventures brought us in a destination that for a long time had been present in my “To Visit List”, and whose expectations were fully met: the island of Enoshima.
Our journey started around 8 am near Odawara. Our initial destination was Kanagawa, but when I started to see Enoshima on the horizon, I convinced Yo to stop for an exploration!
Reaching Enoshima by bike is very simple. From Odawara, just follow the road along the sea towards Yokohama, where it is possible to ride most of the route on two different cycle paths, until you reach directly the island’s entrance bridge.
(At the end of the article you will find detailed directions with the names of the streets to follow).
In particular, if you are a lover of seascapes like me, I recommend choosing the 海岸 サ イ ク リ ン ロ ド ド (Shonan Kaigan Saicuringu Rodo), a cycle path that covers a distance between Chigasaki and Enoshima for a length of 8 km.
Continuing the route, you will reach the entrance of Enoshima. Cross the bridge that connects the island to the mainland and follow the signs for parking cars. You will find a free bicycle parking, equipped with bathrooms, covered benches to rest and drinks machines.
Because is unattended, I recommend you bring a lock with you. From here, about 50 meters you will find the entrance to the village.
From our starting point (around Odawara) to Enoshima it is about 35 km (one way).
After laying the bikes and realizing that my arms were like colored a tomato (due to the sun beating down, super sensitive skin and forgetfulness of sunscreen 50+), even before starting our visit we immediately got earned a consolation prize.
If like us you didn’t bring with you something to eat (the famous “Bento”), don’t worry.
Just passing the first bronze Torii, you will be spoiled for choice between restaurants offering donburi of any kind (meat or fish), grilled squid sprinkled with soy sauce and shops selling traditional Japanese sweets (especially manju) or more western ones.
Forgive our choice outside of the local gastronomic standards, but under that crazy sun, we needed something fresh. We chose Ice Cream with sweet potato and ramune flavor (famous sweet drink here in Japan).
Despite the abundance of food, Enoshima is not famous for its gastronomy.
The reasons that push tourists from all over the world to visit this small island, reside in its natural beauty, the presence of several temples rich in value, and legends that give to this place a mysterious charm.
If walking around the island you will find an unusual number of couples, it is not an unusual coincidence.
Enoshima is in fact famous for the presence of three different shrines, dedicated to three different gods of the sea including Benzaiten, also famous for being goddess of love, femininity, eloquence and music.
According to the story told by the Buddhist monk Kokei (1047), the prehistoric village of Koshigoe (located near the island) was tormented for years by the presence of a giant five headed dragon – Gozuryu, whose anger was controlled by the inhabitants through the offer of children.
Suddenly, one day, the village area was plagued by violent storms and unstoppable earthquakes. When the madness finally came to an end and the clouds cleared, a heavenly girl came down from the skies, the goddess Benzaiten.
Upon arrival, just before touching the surface of the water, a mysterious island arose from the depths of the sea. If the legends tell the truth, in this way we saw the birth of the island of Enoshima, home of the goddess.
The dragon observed the arrival of the divinity and fell in love asking her his hand in marriage.
However, Benzaiten, who was aware of the dragon’s evils, replied that he would consider his proposal only if he promised to help the people of Koshigoe.
From that moment, Gozuryu devoted himself to protecting the area he had once terrified.
When the inhabitants of Koshigoe celebrated it through the construction of a temple dedicated to him, the dragon lay down near the village of Fukasawa (now located in modern Kamakura).
If one looks carefully at the shape of the hills between Kamakura and Enoshima, with a little imagination, one can distinguish the shape of the dragon.
Once you pass the first bronze Torii, your adventure through the streets of Enoshima will begin. You won’t need maps or guides to find your way around. Just follow the crowd of people and the various shrines that will appear along the way to find the way.
You will find yourself immersed in a unique atmosphere, made of nature and places of prayer rich in history.
Soon > Enoshima: an island rich in history (Part 2)