Enoshima Jinja Shrine

Access Map and Diagram


EnoshimagateEnoshima is the name of an islet, 4 kilometers in circumference, linked to the mainland shore of Fujisawa city by two 600-meter bridges. Three shrines stand on this islet, each sacred to a mythological goddess. Legend asserts that 29th Emperor Kinmei (510-571) built a small shrine inside the cave in the southern bluff, wherein enshrined were trio goddesses. They were Tagitsuhime, Ichikishimahime and Tagirihime, all of which appear in the Ancient Chronicle, or Kojiki. (the trio's names are slightly different from those in the Chronicles of Japan or, Nihon Shoki). The mother shrine for the trio is in Fukuoka Prefecture and called Munakata Shrine. Hence the name of Munakata Trio Goddesses.

Japanese Buddhism, in the meantime, was first introduced in the 6th century from China by way of Korea when Emperor Kinmei was in power, and later, the cave here became the favorite spot for Buddhist priests to practice asceticism. Among them were Priest Kukai (774-835), the founder of the Shingon Sect, Priest En-nin, the third chief priest of Enryakuji near Kyoto (mecca of the Tendai Sect), Priest Nichiren (1222-1282), the founder of the Nichiren Sect, and Priest Ippen (1239-1289), the founder of Ji Sect. A harmonious fusion of Shinto and Buddhism was already in progress in the eighth century.

As the cave was often awash by waves, enshrining the goddesses in a safer site was long thought necessary. In 853, Priest En-nin, commonly known by his religious name Jikaku Daishi, erected a shrine atop the islet, which is the origin of today's Nakatsu-no-miya, one of the trio shrines. A statue of Priest En-nin at TNM.

It was Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, who invited the Benten (also referred to as Benzaiten. Sarasvati in Sanskrit) goddess here for the first time, and named it Kinki-zan Yoganji, a Shingon sect Buddhist temple, since the Benten was apparently of Buddhist element. It was founded as a sub-temple of Nin-nah-ji in Kyoto. To the newly enshrined Benten, he prayed for victory over the Fujiwara Clan, that was then powerful and grew near to rivalling the Minamoto up in Hiraizumi, Iwate Prefecture in the northern part of Honshu.

Originating in Veda of Hinduism, Benten is known as the goddess of fortune and closely associated with water or snake. (For further details, see Zeniarai Benten).

There are Three Great Bentens in Japan including the one here at Enoshima. The others are Miyajima (Itsukushima) Shrine in Hiroshima and Chikubushima Shrine in Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture, all located near water and venerated basically as the guardian deity of voyage.

Yoritomo's prayer was answered. With his victory over the Fujiwara Clan in 1189, the Benten goddess was reputed for her ability to fulfill the wishes of worshipers. The Temple gained people's faith and was more popularly called 'Enoshima Benten' rather than Yoganji. Enoshima remained for a long time a sacred spot where only those of upper classes were allowed to visit, and off-limits to commoners.

In 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542-1616), the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, visited Enoshima Benten and made it the official prayer hall for the Tokugawa family. His visit spurred the faith in Benten. In the mid-Edo Period (1603-1868), this temple/shrine complex was finally made open to the public. Only 50 kilometers distant from Tokyo, Enoshima turned into one of the most popular and crowded religious places during the latter half of the Edo Period. Obviously, Buddhist elements such as the Benten statue were far more pronounced than Shinto deities, and Enoshima Jinja was apparently overshadowed. In fact, the entire complex was controlled by the temple called Iwamoto-in (now existing as an inn).

Back at the time, Enoshima was also a favorite scene for Ukiyo-e painters. Exactly 254 Ukiyo-e woodblock printings depicting Enoshima are found including those painted by such famous artists as Hiroshige Ando (1797-1858) and Hokusai Katsushika (1760-1849). Almost all of them were drawn coupled with Mt. Fuji. Those painters thought Mt. Fuji was a good match for Enoshima. MFA has a great many of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints showing Enoshima. Here is one out of many.

Before the Meiji Imperial Restoration of 1868, the complex abounded in Buddhism-related structures. It had a Nio-mon Gate, Three-story Pagoda, En-ma-do Hall, Founding Priest's Hall, Goma (homa in Skt.) Hall, and Kan'non Hall. The new government after the Restoration named Shinto the official state religion. Enoshima Jinja and Shinto elements on the islet suddenly came into the spotlight. Enoshima must have undergone quite a change. Following the 'Abolish the Buddha. Destroy Sakyamuni' policy initiated by the government, most of the Buddhism structures were removed or scrapped shortly afterwards. The Benten statues were nearly thrown away.

The new Constitution enforced in 1947 after World War II guaranteed freedom of religion, whereby Buddha statues such as Benten were restored. They retain, however, nothing of the glory in the in former days. Only the name 'Enoshima Benten' is better known than Enoshima Jinja.

Present-day Enoshima Jinja is made up of the following three shrines and two caves.

(1) Hetsu-no-miya shrine

EnoshimaMHThe first structures you will see after entering the torii gates is Hetsunomiya, the main shrine, sacred to Tagitsuhime, and was originally founded in 1206 by Sanetomo Minamoto (1192-1219), the Third Kamakura Shogun. It consists of three structures: Haiden, or the oratory, Heiden, or the hall to dedicate votive offerings to the sanctum and Honden, or the sanctum. All were rebuilt in 1657.

At the left of the shrine is the octagonal Ho-an-den, meaning a hall to install holly objects, and the structure was modeled after Yumedono of Horyuji in Nara, though much smaller in size. It is dedicated to the two famous Benten Statues: The nude Benten and the one equipped with eight arms. The nude, milk-white Benten statue measuring 54 centimeters tall is in half-cross legged posture playing the lute, whereby it is also called Myo-on (sweet tune) Benten and greatly venerated by pop musicians, kabuki players, etc. Being carved realistically to the fullest extent including woman's genitals, the shrine office is sometimes embarrassed by the request made from the influential quarters to let them take a look at it. Why unclothed? Some say because the white pigment will be stained by saline moisture if it is clothed.

The other Benten statue is nearly as tall as the Nude Benten, or 59 centimeters tall to be exact, and has eight arms, each holding something like a sword, a bow, a hoju (a peach shaped Buddhist fitting) etc. An ICA designated by the Prefecture of Kanagawa. Although it is certain that the statue was made during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), who fashioned it remains unknown. Cross-legged, it is arrayed in karaginu, or a half-length kimono which is outermost layer of the 12-layered court ensemble. In days of yore, the statue must have been richly tinted in colors. According to the literature made by Fujisawa city, the statue was carved in the late Kamakura Period, and the nude Benten statue later than that.

During the Edo Period, the statues were usually enshrined deep inside the feretory and worshipers were unable to view them face to face. The Temple exhibited them for the public only every six years, that were the Year of Snake and Boar. (See Eto of Kamakura Terminology.) In those years, Enoshima was overwhelmed by crowds, and its revenues soared.

Since Benten is of Buddhist elements, the statues were almost thrown away shortly after the Meiji Imperial Restoration of 1868 under the anti-Buddhist movement. They were dumped into a corner of the hall of Nakatsu-no-miya. Local children played with them. A closer look at the Nude Benten will reveal her left hand down the elbow, the left leg down the knee and the right ankle are slightly different in tint from other part of the statue. They were missing at the time of retrieval. Unfortunately, the replaced one does not look, say connoisseurs, like the original one. Its right sole, for example, should face straight upward, but it does not.

The statues here look rather like sculptures for appreciation than objects of worship. They are exhibited on a display stand, not enshrined on the altar. Ho-an-den is open from 9:00 a.m. to 16:30. Admission : 200 yen.

(2) Nakatsu-no-miya shrine

As noted earlier, this shrine was erected by Priest En-nin in 853, dedicating to Ichikishimahime. Curious though it may sound that Buddhist priest erected a Shinto shrine, amalgamation of Shinto and Buddhism was already progressing in his days. Present-day shrine was rebuilt in 1689.

(3) Okutsu-no-miya shrine

Enshrined here is Tagirihime. Legend holds that the goddess usually stays in the cave down the cliff during winter. She comes up here on the first Serpent Day of April and goes back to the cave on the first Boar Day of October on lunar calendar. The shrine is a typical irimoya (hipped-gabled roof) style of architecture, though not old. It was rebuilt in 1842.

On the ceiling of the oratory, the well-known 'A Turtle Glaring at Eight Directions', painted by Hogetsu Sakai (1761-1829), appears and stares down at you no matter where you are.

(4) Caves

EnoshimacaveOn the south side bluff, there are two caves. To reach the caves, visitors have to go down the flight of 220 stone steps at the west end of the islet.
The first (west) cave is 13 meters wide at the entrance and pierce to the length of 45 meters. Roughly 100 meters ahead stands a statue of Priest Kukai and then the cave branches into two. The right-hand one, 39 meters long, is called Kongo (Diamond or Vajradhatu in Skt.) cave and the left one, 20 meters long, is Taizo (Womb or Garbhakosa in Skt.) cave, based on Shingon Sect's doctrines of Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana in Skt.). Being an amalgam of Buddhism and Shinto, the cave also houses Shinto deities: The trio goddesses are still enshrined in the innermost recess of the right-hand cave and Amaterasu Sun Goddess (see Shinto) in the left. However, the cave is filled with a number of stone-statues mostly associated with Shingon sect Buddhism, and there is no viewable object of worship for Shinto since it is not an idolatrous cult. The interior of the caves is dimly lit, too dark to make them out.

Local folklore goes on to say that the cave looks like women's vagina, particularly the far end of the Taizo cave. In 1971, the caves were temporarily closed after rocks at the entrance fell off, causing nine casualties. Twenty-two years later in April 1993, it was reopened. As early as summer 1995, the visitors topped one million. This cave, together with the nude Benten statue, appears to be the driving force to attract hordes of curious visitors.

The second (east) cave, which is linked to the first one, is dedicated to the dragon deity that has long been believed to be the guardian deity for fishermen. In the far end is the statue of a fierce-looking dragon, colored green. From time to time, the artificial sound of thunder surprises visitors.

Legend asserts that this dragon (some say it was a large serpent as long as 60 meters residing in the cave) deity came into view when Tokimasa Hojo (1138-1215), father-in-law of Yoritomo and the First Hojo Regent, visited here and prayed for the prosperity of his offspring. The dragon promised that Tokimasa's wishes be answered, leaving behind three scales, which are the origin of the Hojo crest, or Three Scales.

The caves are open from 9:00 to 17:00 year-round (9:00 to 16:00 from November through February). Admission: 500 yen.

Other structures and monuments

(5) Stone of Good Luck and Waichi Sugiyama (Acupuncturist)

Born into a samurai family in 1610, he went blind in his early age. For the blind, acupuncturists, moxa-cauterizers or massagers were thought to be the best manageable jobs back then. He chose to be an acupuncturist. However, his skill did not progress as he had hoped. One day, he visited Enoshima to pray to Benten for better skill, and practiced asceticism in the cave fasting for three weeks. When he came out of the cave after the fast, he stumbled over a stone to find a pine-tree needle has stuck deep in his leg, and the needle was in a bamboo tube! A very good idea flashed across his mind. For the acupuncturists, it is a critically important to stick the needle straight down. He began using a small pipe to help the needle vertically pierce the patient's skin. The technique was a big success and spread fast. Sugiyama even cured disease of Fifth Tokugawa Shogun Tsunayoshi (1646-1709) and was conferred the title of Kengyo, the highest official title given to the blind. Enoshima Benten became his guardian deity. In appreciation of the great success, he donated a three-story-pagoda (but removed after the Meiji Restoration), and built 47 mileposts between Enoshima and Fujisawa of Tokaido Pedestrian Path, of which 11 are still in existence. So often visited Enoshima to worship Benten, he was not often available in case Shogun Tsunayoshi needed him. As an alternative, the Shogun erected a mini-temple sacred to Benten in Sugiyama's residence. He died in 1694 at age 84. Incidentally. the stone he tumbled over is reserved near the second torii gate under the name of 'Stone of Good Luck'.

(6) Yasaka Shrine

EnshimaYasakaAdjacent to the Ho-an-den stands this structure. As the name Yasaka indicates, it is an offshoot of Yasaka Jinja Shrine in Kyoto and the object of worship is Susano-o, a Japanese mythological god. At the time Yasaka Shrine was founded in the ninth century, however, it was called "Gion-sha", and was built to stave off epidemics in Kyoto. The epidemics were believed to have been brought by the curse of Gozu-ten'no, or Gosirsa-devaraja in Skt., which, according to Buddhist teachings, resides in Gion Shoja (Jetavanavihara in Skt. An ancient temple in India erected for Sakyamuni) as a guardian deity. After Yasaka Shrine was built to appease the curse of Gozu-Ten'no, the epidemic then in prevalent in Kyoto was crushed out. From then onward, people in Kyoto began to venerate the god.

Later, merging of Buddhism with Shinto elements was seen between Gozu-ten'no and Susano-o because of their similarity in divine characters. In other words, Gozu-ten'no was thought to be a vicar of Susano-o. Thereby, it was employed as the main object of worship in Yasaka Shrine and its offshoots as well.

The Shrine holds the grand festival on the Fourteenth of July (Quatorze Juillet!) every year. Mikoshi , or portable shrines parade in the sea to Koyurugi Jinja.

(7) Samuel Cocking Garden

This garden has a historic background. It was first opened by an English merchant named Samuel Cocking (1842-1914). He came to Japan in 1869 right after the Meiji Restoration as an art dealer, but made a huge fortune through export of herbs such as mint. After marrying a Japanese woman, he bought one hectare land in Enoshima in her wife's name, and built a 660-square-meter greenhouse, in which he gathered various tropical plants. Back at the time, the greenhouse was of great novelty and drew a good deal of public attention. It was opened in 1880 as Enoshima Botanical Garden. Over years, the title has been passed from hand to hand, finally resting on the city of Fujisawa in 1949. The garden used to have 165 species, 5,000 plants, but restarted as Samuel Cocking Garden in April 2003 preserving the old greenhouse built by Cocking. Admission is 200 yen. The city also rebuilt the observation tower, which is as high as 60 meters. With additional 300 yen, you can go up to observation deck. If weather is fine, Mt Fuji is just beautiful. The top of the tower is 120 meters above sea level. The tower-cum-lighthouse is called Enoshima Sea Candle.

(8) Saifukuji a.k.a. Enoshima Daishi

Standing on the other side of Enoshima Botanical Garden is Saifukuji, or popularly called Enoshima Daishi. Open from 9:00 to 18:30. No admission. This is the only and the first Buddhist temple on the islet restored during the past 125 years after the Meiji Restoration. Constructed in 1993, it belongs to the Shingon Sect as the word Daishi indicates. Daishi is literally 'Great Teacher', and in this particular case, it is Priest Kukai himself, who founded the Shingon Sect. The main hall enshrines a 6-meter-tall statue of Red Fudo, or the Immovable (Acalanatha in Skt.).

Chief Priest Ekan Ikeguchi (1936-) is well known among the Sect devotees for his unprecedented Goma (Homa in Skt.) performance and has a title of Dai (great)-Ajari, or Acarya in Skt.

Anyone can go inside the hall, which is the top floor of the four-story building and is called Goma Hall. Goma is a ceremony to exorcise evil spirits by holly fire, most often performed by Shingon sect Buddhists. An aerial view shows this structure is a huge building, probably the largest among those on this Shinto-dominated islet, though it does not look like that. Currently, the Temple is inviting applicants who want mortuary tablets of the departed be enshrined here for a fee of one million yen. Since there is no space available for graveyard on this small land, the Temple keeps the tablets for the dead and perform joint mass services thrice a year for 32 years. The ashes are sent to Kongo-Buji at Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture, the mecca of the Shingon sect, and buried jointly with others.

Whether or not the one million yen fee is expensive depends on how the applicants feel. A social critic once commented that today's religion is one of the most profitable service industry in this country. Japan is rapidly aging and families are also becoming more nuclear, with the average number of people per household now down to 2.57. As a result, many of the elderly live and die alone without being taken care of at death. According to Urban Renaissance Agency, a government-backed rental apartment firm, which has 770,000 apartments throughout Japan, 517 people died alone in 2005 without being known to anybody. The number of those people is sure to increase and they live in fear imagining what will happen to him or her after death. If they are rich enough to pay one million yen, their fear may be relieved.


(1) Access to Enoshima. Walking from Kamakura Station to Enoshima may take you almost an hour and a half. If you want to save walking time, you can reach Enoshima by trains. One is to change for Enoshima at Kamakura Station getting on Eno-Den, which is short for Enoshima Dentetsu (railway) and starts from the west side of JR Kamakura Station (26 minutes ride for 250 yen). Others are: to get off at Ofuna Station and take Shonan Mono-Rail running between Ofuna and Enoshima (14 minutes for 300 yen); to take the JR Tokaido Line and change for Enoshima at Fujisawa Station, from where two railway lines are connected to Enoshima: One is the Enoshima Line of Odakyu Railway (7 minutes for 140 yen) and the other is again Eno-den (runs between Kamakura and Fujisawa). All are running every 10 to 15 minutes during the daytime, but less frequently at night.

(2) There are two bridges spanning Enoshima and the mainland: One for pedestrians built in 1958 and the other for cars constructed in 1963, a year before the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games took place. The Yachting trials were held here at Enoshima Yacht Harbor. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), people walked on the causeway that appeared at low tide. When the causeway was in water, coolies carried them on their shoulders. Fares varied depending on the depth of water.

(3) Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) ,a.k.a. Yakumo Koizumi, wrote a book "Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan" in 1894, in which he explained vividly what he saw at Enoshima back at the time, which seems quite different from what we see today. The book is available in the Project Gutemberg.

(4) Enoshima must have been beautiful before World War II. Some say it is the Japanese equivalent of Mont St. Michel in Normandy, and the mainland seashore is dubbed 'Miami of Asia'. Does today's Enoshima really deserve the words? The narrow lane leading to Hetsu-no-miya and Okutsu-no-miya are filled with souvenir shops and restaurants of all kinds. Three outdoor, roofed escalators, 106 meters long in total length and built in 1962, available for 350 yen. Why do we need escalators to go up to the 62-meter-high summit? An English guide book termed it 'Automated veneration.' The whole area looks gaudy. The observation tower (cum- lighthouse) right in the center of the Botanical Garden makes it even gaudier. A daily newspaper recently carried a reader's complaint on Enoshima in its Letters-to-the-Editor page, in which the reader said she was disappointed with her visit to Enoshima saying it was far from beautiful and did not deserve another visit. In response, a local resident replied that the reader should visit once more in winter, when the weather is fine and Mt. Fuji can be viewed. With Mt. Fuji or without, today's landscape of Enoshima must be quite different from what it was a century ago. In 1934, the National Government designated Enoshima as a Site of Historical Value and Scenic Beauty, but revoked it in 1960.

(5) How many visitors do you think visit Enoshima every year? Iso Mutsu's "Kamakura: Fact & Legend", a classical guidebook for Kamakura, reads that the number of visitors amounted to 400,000 in 1920. According to Enoshima Tourists Association, it peaked at 13 million in 1995, but has since been steadily on the decline with the number falling to roughly 8 million in recent years. This is not an isolated instance for the Japanese tourist industry. Evidently it is losing competitive edge over foreign rivals. If we Japanese stay at a resort hotel with hot springs, say in Hakone, it usually costs us 25,000 yen per night per head with dinner and breakfast. Double occupancy will need 50,000 yen just for one night. (You have to be careful choosing Japanese hotels since rates are often based on a per-person charge, not on a straight room charge). By virtue of the currency appreciation, 50,000 yen would give us a 5-day-trip to Hong Kong or Singapore, which covers everything such as airfares, accommodation, meals and sightseeing tours. As a result, more and more Japanese are enjoying overseas trips. Today, roughly 16 million Japanese, or 12.8 percent of the total population, are going abroad every year, and the number is expected to increase steadily despite the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which temporarily dampened the growth trend.
According to Japan Tourism Agency, a government body, Japanese travellers overseas totaled 16 million in 2008 whereas foreign visitors to Japan were only 6.4 million. The Agency has a goal to increase the number of foreign visitors up to 10 million.

(6) Website for Enoshima visitors
Fujisawa Kanko (tourism) hosted by the city of Fujisawa has a website for visitors. On top page, there are several slide photographs which show today's Enoshima.

(Updated October 2010)