The more I travel in Japan, the more I question traditional travel wisdom. For example, are destinations like Nara and Kamakura really day trips from Kyoto and Tokyo (respectively), or are they actually better as overnight excursions?
In the case of Kamakura, this question is especially relevant to the topic of today’s article: Enoshima is arguably itself a day trip from Kamakura, which can make it a challenge to see both of these places in a single day if you’re coming from Tokyo.
But I’m getting ahead of myself—the query I hope to address today is quite a bit more fundamental. Namely, is Enoshima island worth visiting?
Why So Many Travelers Skip Enoshima
Is Enoshima worth visiting? I’m not sure this is the right question to ask, as virtually everyone who makes their way onto the island ends up enjoying it greatly. Rather, the issue is whether it’s easy or practical to reach Enoshima. As I’ll explain in more detail later in this post, reaching Enoshima from the Tokyo area requires first traveling to Kamakura (which it itself an hour away from the city), and then taking another hour-long trek.
While two hours each way in transit—so, four hours total—isn’t itself a deal breaker for day trippers who are prepared to leave town early and come back late, there’s another complicating factor. Namely, how much there is to see in Kamakura, and how little most travelers want to step away from top attractions like the Kotoku-in Big Buddha or Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu shrine.
My Favorite Things to Do in Enoshima
Discover the charms of Enoshima town
As soon as you walk onto the island (or arrive by bus at the roundabout just over the bridge), you’ll notice a unique copper torii gate, long ago colored a turquoise patina. The moment you pass under here, you’ll start to feel the charms of Enoshima, whether you shop at the island’s denim boutique, or simple people-watch along the pedestrian street.
Eat local delicacies
Food is definitely a big part of what makes Enoshima worth visiting. If you’re not a fan of the sazae sea snail that’s served both grilled and in donburi rice bowls, make sure to splurge on the ise ebi lobster. Whether you enjoy it as sashimi or in cooked form, it’ll fuel you up for an afternoon of adventure.
Say a prayer at a shrine (or three)
Once you finish walking the short main street of Enoshima, it’s up the steps to the island’s main shrine—and then up more steps to various other temples and shrines. If you came to the island not knowing what to expect, the sheer number of sacred sites here would probably shock you!
Hike the island’s coastal trail
Nature is another big part of what makes Enoshima is worth visiting. After the main road becomes a steep staircase, it winds around the island and eventually starts sloping downhill toward the sea. Whether or not you pay to enter the island’s sea caves is your choice, but the views can’t be beat.
Take in views of the sea—and of Mt. Fuji
Let’s be frank: You don’t need to go up into the Enoshima Sea Candle to take in a panorama of the sea around Enoshima—or, on a clear day, to see Mt. Fuji towering in the distance. However, doing so is an easy way to make sure you can see everything without having to put too much effort into dodging fellow tourists.
How to Get to Enoshima
Reaching Enoshima is relatively straightforward, but it does take time. Once you’re at JR Kamakura Station, transfer to the Enoden streetcar and right it to Enoshima Station. Here, you’ll face a choice. If the weather is nice, you can simply walk 15-20 minutes over a pedestrian bridge onto the island; if it’s not or if you’re feeling lazy, you can ride one of the frequent buses from the station instead.
Is Enoshima worth visiting? Well, it honestly depends how much time you have. If you consider that you need an hour each way to get here simply from Kamakura, and that Kamakura itself is an hour each way from Tokyo, you’re looking at four hours in transit. When you combine this with the fact that both Kamakura and Enoshima require at least four hours to see each, you’re looking at a 12-hour day, which is too much for many travelers to bear.
Other FAQ About Visiting Enoshima
Can you do Kamakura and Enoshima in one day?
You can technically do Kamakura and Enoshima in one day, traveling first by train from Tokyo to Kamakura and sightseeing there, before taking the streetcar to Enoshima, walking onto the island and exploring it for a few hours. In practice, however, this requires at least 12 hours when all is said and done, which is more time and energy than most travelers are willing or able to spend.
Is it worth visiting Enoshima?
Enoshima is absolutely worth visiting. From the moment you cross under the copper torii gate, a small wonderland awaits you, whether you prefer the island’s collection of shrines, its vast network of caves or simply enjoying freshly-caught seafood. You can also take in views of the sea (and, on a clear day, Mt. Fuji) from its lookout tower.
What is Enoshima island known for?
Enoshima island is known for different things to different people. Tourists know it for attractions and experiences like the Enoden streetcar, Enoshima Sea Candle and the island’s various shrines and caves. Japanese people know a lot of the mythology about the island, particularly the various dragon-related stories that surround its origin.
The Bottom Line
Is Enoshima island worth visiting? The answer, obviously, is yes. The problem, for most travelers, is the temptation to visit both Enoshima and Kamakura on a single day trip from Tokyo. While this is possible—I’ve done it many times myself—the reality is that Enoshima itself is something of a day trip from Kamakura. The good news, whether you spend a night in Kamakura or wake up at the crack of dawn and attempt to see everything without having to leave your Tokyo base behind, is that the tiny island of Enoshima packs a big travel punch. The better news? If you hire me to plan your trip to Japan, you’ll be even more satisfied with the end result.