Andrew’s world in Japan 2019/February

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

Strolling Island Steps, Slopes and Small Streets ④ – Mystical Caves

Every visit to Enoshima is likely to be different, full of surprises, like any living thing always changing. Passing through the gardens (or it is possible to arrive directly via ferry) you can stroll along Chigogafuchi to Iwaya Cave. This south-western area has transitioned many times. In 552AD, the ancient Kinmei Emperor was told to build a shrine in this cave. For a time the island and the cave grew in popularity. Samurai like Yoritomo Minamoto and the Hojo family and renowned monks like En-Nin, Kuhkai, Nichiren and En-No-Ozunu made pilgramages to do what they do here. More recently, the caves went from a scary place with dangerous rock falls to the tourist friendly attraction it is today. Their mystic charms remain powerful.

After you have sent the crabs scurrying, and taken photos of the magnificient view, pay ¥500 to enter the caves. If at the entrance they offer you a candle lantern, take them up on it. A fantastic prop and helpful to light your way while venturing deep into Iwaya’s depths.

The well lit entrance area also plays host to historic photos and information. Take a moment to study a bit what is here. Note the soft sounds of echoing drips of water. Let the flickering shadows carry your worries and fears away. Breath deep, filling your lungs with moist salty ocean air. The magical forces of nature gathered here become you. Like much of our beloved carved earth, this cave develops from waves pushing and pulling. Erosion sculpted the variety of shapes flickering before you. There are two caves for you to explore and not much likelihood of you becoming lost. A protective fence keeps you from exploring too deep.

The first and main Iwaya cave is 152m deep, while the second is only 56m. Scattered throughout are numerous Jizo (guardian deity of children) as well as other tablets and sculptures. At a point, the split has created an opportunity to highlight important mythical figures of the island. The path to the left brings you to statues dedicated to Benten, the Island’s goddess. The right is dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu. Could this be the source of the mystical energies? Some have said the power eminates from channels linking to Mt. Fuji. Steeping from one cave to the other at the peak of day may shock your eyes. Take it slow to adjust them. Look to the shore to glimpse Kame Ishi (the Turtle Stone).

Within the second cave is housed the conquoured dragon. Don’t worry, it is only a tamed statue now watching over the local fishermen. Here you can test your own luck and make a wish. Clap your hands or strike the drum and watch to see how the light flashes. If the dragon shines for each strike, your wish is granted. If not, well, maybe it’s for the best.

Sado ni yokotau

Turbulent the sea
Stretching across to Sado Island
The Milky Way

Repeated earthquakes have elevated the caves above sea level. Enoshima island continues to hold appeal after all it has been through. Enoshima’s mystical beauty has been captured in time by the ukiyoe artworks of greats like Hokusai, Hiroshige, Toyokuni and many others Most recently was Samuel Cocking, who was mesmerized after awakening from a typhoon that wrecked his steamship at Sagami Bay. Today, the powers may seem dulled slightly from the ease of access, but allow yourself to stretch into the weight of this natural treasure.