Andrew’s world in Japan 2018/December

Artist & researcher based in KL since 2009, passionately exploring the creative process & connecting with other creative people.

Strolling Island Steps, Slopes and Small Streets ② – From Torii Gate To Hetsunomiya Shrine

If you picked up the Enoshima 1 day passport, the Enopass, then you have lots you must see. For an adult, this costs about 1970 yen. You have covered the admissions to all the main attractions (garden, observation tower, caves) and discounts to most restaurants and gift shops. It’s even possible to save some energy by taking advantage of the escalator, although the walk is enjoyable and offers special views.

Stepping through the torii gate at the end of Nakamise Street symbolically marks your transition from the external world to the sacred. Rebuilt in 1936, the bold red still stands strong. Hopefully, you have begun to relax and absorb the fresh atmosphere. There are actually three separate shrines spread out over the island. Here, right in front of the torii is the main complex. An interesting octagonal shaped building, Hoanden, sits just to the left of the main shrine. Within this structure rests the treasured statue of the goddess of wealth, Benzaiten. Without the Enopass, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee to view this rather unusual depiction. What sets it apart is the style and nakedness of the statue. Just in front is the Zeniarai Benten, or the White Dragon and the pond. Legend has it that money washed here returns increasing many times over. I did not try so I cannot attest to this.

Here is a blending of time and history. The current shrine was rebuilt in 1976. The original was constructed in 1206 by Minamono no Sanetomo, the third Shogun of the Kamakura period. The elements here are a mix of both Shinto and Buddhist. Ascending the stairs offers the opportunity for many photos and access to the other installations, flora and fauna along the way. If you opt for the escalator, you’ll by-pass this and arrive directly at the Dragon Pond. At the head of the stairs, you have reached Zui Shinmon tower gate. Possibly modeled on the Ryugujyo underwater palace from “Urashima Taro” folk tales. Pause to appreciate the beautiful paintings of peony flowers and a pair of lion protectors adorning the walls. Much like life, the paths up the hill are numerous. Remember to look around and behind, as you may find a fresh view that inspires you.

Before arriving at the main shrine, you pass a fountain, continue your cleansing process and wash your hands. As you do, imagine yourself transported back in time, to one of the most important places of reverence since the Edo era. To a time before running water was a common household feature and everyone held a mini computer in their hand. In those days, it would have been packed with people seeking blessings.

Largest of the three shrines and the first you come to is Hetsunomiya. As you enter you pass through the “chinowa” grass wheel for purification. Standing in front of the shrine, throw a coin into the offering box, bow twice, clap twice and recite a special desire in your mind. Finally, bow again and walk away. It’s as simple as that. In this area you can search out a special omikuji or omamori.

While you stroll, breath in deep the fresh ocean air, observe the blend of iconography. Hunt for the many depictions of dragons, or test your future and try the omikuji, those Japanese fortune-telling paper strips. It’s kind of like a fortune cookie, only without the cookie part.