Thursday, March 27, 2014

Enoshima Jinja                                                                                                        UC
On the bridge to Enoshima
(all photos: Joseph Cali)

Date founded: Founded in 853 by the Buddhist monk Ennin according to shrine tradition.
Address: 2-3-8, Enoshima, Fujisawa-shi, Kanagawa 251-0036
Tel/Information: 0466-22-4020 A brief history of the shrine is available in English.
How to get there: Take the Enoden Line to Enoshima Station. Walk about ten minutes across the bridge from near the station exit.
Enshrined kami: The three female Munakata deities, Tagitsuhime, Ichikishimahime, and Tagirihime.
Prayers offered: Safety on the sea and on the road.
Best times to go: Summer is the best season. The beach area opposite the island, though rather narrow and sometimes underwater, is one of the main attractions of the area.

Torii and zuishinmon of Enoshima
Important physical features: The most striking physical feature of Enoshima Jinja would probably be the shima of Enoshima, which in Japanese means "island". It is basically a massive rock covered with trees lying about 650 yards off shore. It is connected by a natural causeway that is covered in high tide. However since the 1960's a bridge was built above the causeway that now permanently links the island to the mainland for both pedestrian and automobile traffic.
            The jinja is actually composed of three shrines, one to each deity. After the bridge you arrive in a small town with the typical shops one finds in a monzenmachi purveying food and various goods. Passing under a copper torii a narrow street leads to the shrine. After climbing a number of steep staircases, the first of which passes under a red torii and then an ryugumon-stye gate more usually associated with Buddhist temples (but here called the zuishinmon and associated with the entrance to the undersea palace of the dragon deity), you reach the hetsunomiya where Tagitsuhime is enshrined. The gongen-zukuri structure contains the haiden and heiden with an irimoya-zukuri honden at the back. This shrine is said to have been established in 1206 by order of Minamoto no Sanetomo (though he was only three at the time) and rebuilt in 1675. The present incarnation is from a 1976 rebuilding. Because of its location on the mountain, relative to the other two shrines, it is also referred to as the lower shrine.
            To the left is an octagonal building, called the Hoanden. It is of a type one finds at Buddhist temples. Indeed, this one was modeled after the yumedono of Nara's famous Horyuji. It was built in 1976 to house two famous statues; the Happi (eight-armed) Benzaiten and the Hadaka (naked) Benzaiten. Minamoto Yoritomo supposedly ordered the making of the eight-armed statue. Both statues were only available for viewing once every six years however both can now be viewed most days for an entrance fee of 150 yen.
            Although the next shrine is further up the hill it is actually the oldest one, and today referred to as the middle shrine; nagatsumiya. This shrine's founding in 853 is attributed to Ennin (794-864), the head of the Tendai sect of Buddhism at that time. It is currently also a smaller, gongen-zukuri type, painted in red and constructed in 1689. The shrine is dedicated to Ichikishimahime no mikoto, the second of the Munakata deities.
           Much further along the road to the other side of the island lies the shrine to Tagorihime no mikoto known as the okutsumiya or inner shrine. This is an irimoya-zukuri type built sometime after 1841 when the old shrine, said to be much more magnificent, was destroyed. It sports a famous painting on its ceiling known as the "Turtle Glaring in Eight Directions" with eyes painted such that it seems to be looking at you wherever you stand. Another shrine of some interest here, called Wadatsunomiya, is made like a stone cave with a sculpture of a dragon atop it. This shrine is dedicated to the deity of the sea.
           Continuing on you come to a staircase leading down to the backside of Enoshima where worship was said to begin in the sixth century when Emperor Kinmei enshrined the Munakata deities in one of several caves in the rock face. These caves then became the object of devotion of such famous monks as Kukai, Ennin, Nichiren and Ippen. Today there are a number of statues and other objects and images associated with the history of the island. Here too the dragon deity is found as is a statue of the founder of the Shingon sect, Kukai.
           For any reader interested in further physical details of the island, I recommend "A Guide to Kamakura" at This is an excellent website for information on the shrines and temples of Kamakura. I will close this part of the entry with a quote from that website. Lamenting the changes the island has undergone, the website quotes "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." This is in relation to the three outdoor escalators, the observation tower, and any number of horrible "innovations" all made in the name of tourism. These kind of grossly ugly "conveniences" are fairly typical in Japan. The country really needs to get a grip on this government sponsored pollution of natural and historical sites. 'Nuff said. 

Haiden of Enoshima Jinja
Important spiritual features: If there are two significant factors to consider in the history of Shinto they would be the great unification of Shinto and Buddhism that occurred from the seventh century and then the great schism that was perpetrated by the Meiji government in the early nineteenth century. I mention this to point out that although Enoshima is one of the preeminent places of Benzaiten worship in Japan, this deity is not enshrined in the jinja. In "Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion" I have detailed entries on two of the other main sites of Benzaiten worship; Chikubushima in Shiga Prefecture and Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture. Both islands were considered sacred from ancient times, as was Enoshima, and both embodied Shinto deities. However both places came also to embody Benzaiten worship from as early as the sixth or seventh century. The book "Chikubushima" by Andrew Watsky quotes the fourteenth century encyclopedia of religion Keiran shuyoshu on Benzaiten, "Within Japan, how many places are there that are Pure Lands of Benzaiten? The answer, according to legend is Tennokawa,... Itsukushima,... Chikubushima,... These three places...are linked together by underground tunnel." Later on in the same document "Six Benzaitens" are listed. To the above three are added Enoshima, Minoo in Osaka Prefecture and Sefurisan in Saga Prefecture. Of the six, Enoshima, Chikubushima and Itsukushima are today considered the most prominent sites. And, not coincidentally, all three are islands. Water is the medium through which the female deity Benzaiten (the Hindu goddess of water and "all things that flow" such as music, also called Benten in Japan and Sarisvati in India) became associated with the female Munakata deities who are kami of the sea. The other three sites are in mountains but mountains are also strongly related to water as the source of rivers that flow down into fields and nourish the land. It is exactly this kind of "easy" association between the Hindu, Buddhist and Shinto gods and mythologies which Buddhism was so good at facilitating. And why not? The concerns for natural phenomena and how to derive its benefits (and avoid its hazards) were the same. From this, Hinduism derived a highly developed textural mythology that was only added to by Buddhism—much as the new testament of the Christians added to the old testament of the Jews. Shinto had almost no textural mythology and so absorbed Buddhism (and with it a selected group of Hinduism) like a sponge.
           That being said, the native religion retained an identity (if not in fact) of a pre-Buddhist religion, which was always yearning to reassert itself. This it did officially in the Meiji period by artificially distinguishing what was Shinto ritual and myth from what was Buddhist. The government then forcibly dividing sacred sites into "yours and mine". So we have the situation today where the three most prominent centers of Benzaiten (a Hindu-Buddhist deity) are islands where the most prominent places of worship are Shinto, and enshrine the Munakata daughters of Amaterasu omikami. In fact, Enoshima comes closest to the old shinbutsu shugyo configuration in that it now enshrines its Benzaiten statues in a Buddhist-style structure on the grounds of the shrine. Whereas in both Chikubushima and Itsukshima, Benzaiten worship is conducted in prominent temples completely separated from the shrines.

A view of the causeway and beach
from Enoshima.

Description: Enoshima Jinja is actually only one part of the religio-amusment complex known more simply as Enoshima. This complex most prominently features the beach opposite the island. More properly called Katase Beach or Shonan, this narrow three-mile stretch of sand, is visited by millions during the summer months. A single fireworks event in August attracts in the neighborhood of 150,000 people. Perhaps as a result of its popularity and government meddling, the water is famously polluted and the island sports all sorts of incredibly unsightly conveniences such as three outdoor escalators and a god-awful observation tower from which you can see Mt. Fuji on a clear day. So long as you are looking out from the tower you may be OK but having to look at the tower is one of the things that has taken Enoshima far from the beautiful scenic spot it once was. The tower is located in the Botanical Gardens that grew from the Samual Cocking Garden. Samual was an English merchant who made a mint by exporting mint (and importing carbolic acid). He was married to a Japanese woman and bought a piece of the island in the 1870's when the government decided to sell off land belonging to Buddhist temples. In fact about half the island is now concrete, sporting such facilities as a yacht harbor and another ugly building called the Kanagawa Woman's Center.
           The other prominent man made structure on the island is the Shingon Buddhist temple Saifukuji, also known as Enoshima Daishi. It occupies a prominent position on top of the rock. It was built in 1993 as a replacement of sorts for the older temples that existed on the island before they were destroyed by the Meiji government. A twenty-foot statue of Fudo-myoo stands outside the temple. Its prominent head monk, Ekan Iguchi, was recently embroiled in a controversy when he fronted for a pro-North Korean group that won a bid to buy that country's former de-facto embassy for 4.5 billion yen. The Japanese government is strictly opposed to the building falling back into the hands of a pro-North Korean group. Iguchi was forced to give up his bid after the government stopped the bank from lending the money to the priest's association.
           Lest I give the impression that its "all bad" a quick glance at comments on the web tells me that many people enjoy their trip to the island. Some mention the Iwamoto-ro Japanese ryokan, which sports spectacular views of Mt. Fuji, as a very pleasant place to stay. It is the former site of a Buddhist structure called Iwamono-in and while it is no substitute for the temples, niomons and pagodas that once added to the islands sense of sacredness, I suppose it will have to do until another "restoration" comes along.

Enoshima by Utagawa Hiroshige
Festivals: Adult Festival (seijin-sai), 13 January. This is a national holiday called Seijin no hi when men and women whose birthday falls within the year, celebrate their coming of age. A mikoshi is carried by men in fundoshi (loin cloths) into the freezing sea.


  1. Thank you for posting this additional information online. I am very interested in your book as well and look forward to visiting this site for additional updates.

  2. Very sorry I missed your comment! Already the new year and just getting around to some long overdue maintenance. Hope not to be so tardy if you take time to comment again in the future.