This post was derailed by my untimely meeting with e.coli (or his cousin salmonella) but before I fell ill I’d spent the day on a return trip to Kamakura, wanting a chance to revisit on a sunny day and take things at my own place. I also wanted to get out to Enoshima this time, for obvious reasons.
Kamakura was lovely as ever. It was indeed very clear, but extremely windy, and the fall colors were in much better form than on my first visit. There’s something about being at a magnificent temple like Kenchou-ji, with hawks screaming overhead in the wind, that transports you completely to place removed from time. I was also able to get a great look at Fuji-san from the wind-beaten lookout 10 minutes walk into the hills above the temple.
I wanted to spend the bulk of my Kamakura time on the trails that wind through the hills surrounding the city, full of remnants of its history as Japan’s capitol eight centuries ago. There are trails winding through beautiful terrain, past many cave tombs (I choose not to photograph these) and idyllic temples. They also take you to Zenairai Benten Shrine, a strange mix of Shinto and Buddhism in a narrow valley accessed through a cave tunnel. It’s a very mystical place, where the locals go to wash their money in the natural springs, where legend holds that it will be doubled.
Then, there’s Enoshima. It’s accessed by a land-bridge of about 600 meters, and it’s hard to express just how astonishingly windy this walk was. I took video, but it really doesn’t do it justice.
Enoshima, was pretty amazing, in just about every way. As I spent the afternoon there, buffeted by phenomenal wind gusts, the place took on an increasingly fairy-tale air. It’s an exceedingly odd place – small enough to walk comfortably in a few hours but exhaustingly steep, revolving around a mountain in the center which holds the Benten Shrines that have been the center of island culture for a thousand years or more. There’s a pay escalator that goes to the top (I walked) where the Samuel Cocking Gardens and the Lighthouse Observation Tower reside. Around the perimeter are the commercial fishing docks and tourist-related facilities.
Enoshima is…different. I can only say that it suits the mood of Tsuritama perfectly, because there’s a sense of great whimsy to it that’s consistent through the modern touristy stuff and the ancient relics. The love story of Benten and the Dragon is very real and big part of island folklore, and they’re very proud of their Tsuritama connection too – old and new coexist in this place as they do in few places I’ve visited. I wish I could communicate what’s so special about the place but it’s not easy – I can only say that walking about the island’s surface in those gale-force winds was a surreal experience, and I recommend the place to anyone. But if you love Tsuritama as I do, it will resonate even more.