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Sometimes the reality lives up to the fantasy.

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.

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  1. A

    looks awesome

  2. J

    Hey, why do you like these religious temples so much, Enzo? I don't mean to be disrespectful, but it seems to me that it's more than a fascination and basically an obsession. It can't just be the architecture and exotic old cultural vibes since after 10 temples or so, they look pretty much the same, certainly not enough to convince me to seek them everywhere I go, but that's just me.

    Are you a Buddhist or something? There is nothing wrong with saying so, I'd think, since at least the buddism is the among least detrimental religion in 21st century. If one feels like having to hide something, perhaps it's not worth believing to begin with. They still believe in crazy stuff without any evidence like all other religions, but I'll take Buddhists any day over any other religious freaks.

  3. L

    I'm not Buddhist—but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the temples in Japan and wherever else. It's not about being religious, as you might have heard that a lot of Japanese don't practice that many Buddhist traditions yet identify with the physical establishments.

    For me (I don't speak for Enzo), it's more about keeping with traditions and loving the atmosphere. There's something timeless about stepping through into the compound that has stood all these years and seen all manner of people. And the peaceful atmosphere is another selling point—but as they say, you had to have been there.

  4. No offense, Jake, but I don't think that question deserves a serious response so I'm not going to give it one.

  5. R

    The only thing I can say is that I rather pity the guy if temples really all do look the same to him after 10 or so different places. You really need to go out into other places (and countries). The sheer scope of different architecture, settings, eras, and cultural influence is incredible.

    I was going to be a lot more snarky because I actually kind of feel offended by that comment because of my culture and homeland, but I'll leave it at that.

  6. s

    Never watched Tsuritama. But definitely a place I can relate a lot from in the likes of Tari Tari and Area no Kishi. 🙂

    I heard the place is a tourist trap though. Any truth in this?

  7. e

    Hawks! And I see Enoshima cats too! 😀
    The Zenairai Benten Shrine sounds like an extremely evocative place. The tunnel as tangible form of a inner path to spiritual enlightenment and contact with the sacred, maybe?
    Have you tried washing your own money there? :p

  8. I was a little embarrassed to wash my money, being the only gaijin within miles.

    Steven, it's undeniably a tourist trap in many ways. Yet somehow, while that usually annoys me it didn't here – the whole place has a very tongue-in-cheek quality to it, and even the ancient sites and legends are larger-than-life. It's just that kind of place.

  9. h

    I loved Tsuritama and I loved this post! Thanks for sharing this! Now I really wish I could visit Japan myself too!

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