Enoshima Island

A hidden history of dragons and faith

By Sleiman Azizi    - 2 min read

You would have to say that the island of Enoshima is certainly an enigmatic place of worship, tourism and nature. With its nearby neighbours of Kamakura, the famous Daibutsu Big Buddha statue, and a contemporary beach culture, it would be easy to imagine that the island is over overlooked but this is far from the case.

Visitors are almost non-stop here. The local delicacies are a hit, the souvenir stores are energetic and the casual ambience of the island has just enough hint of the unfamiliar to make a trip here feel like a world away from Tokyo. Yet surely one of the island's secret appeals would have to be the fascinating mythology that surrounds its history.

Wherever you go on the island you will find shrines dedicated to the worship of Benzaiten who, as the stories have it, soothed a five-headed dragon that was causing the local people much grief. As part of that soothing, the goddess Benzaiten raised a mass of land from the sea which ended up becoming the island of Enoshima. By the time the Edo Period, Enoshima had already become a major pilgrimage site for worshippers.

An addition to the creation story is the visit by Hojo Tokimasa, the first regent of the Kamakura shogunate in the 12th century. Praying at the shrine, Tokimasa received a prophecy by a mysterious lady who some say was goddess Benzaiten herself. As part of this prophecy, however, it is said that she left behind three dragon scales which Tokimasa decided to then used as his family's crest.

As you walk around the island, you will notice dragons everywhere, and all of them stem from the island's relationship with dragons.

Getting there

Enoshima is served by three train stations: Katase-Enoshima station on the Odakyu line; Enoshima station on the Enoden line; and Shonan Enoshima station on the Shonan Monorail.

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Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident, I have over 400 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books written in a traditional Japanese style. I happen enjoy writing. Funny that...I'm also the Regional Partner for Tokyo, Japan's never ending capital, so if you've anything to say about Tokyo - or Japan in general - don't be shy and contact with me via sleiman.azizi@japantravel.com