As the year comes to an end, “illuminations” or light up displays pop up at various locations all over Japan. Some are grandiose displays with millions of lights, while others are more simple and low key.
One rather unexpected place for a great illumination turns out to be Kanagawa Prefecture’s Enoshima. Titled “The Jewel of Enoshima” (江ノ島の宝石), this illumination display goes from December 23, 2021 to February 28, 2022, and is sure to be a great place to visit for a date or a nice family night out during the holidays.
This year I visited for the first time with my wife and two year old son. Allow me to share our experience, while giving a few tips we learned on our visit.
The closest train station to Enoshima is Katase-Enoshima on the Odakyu line. You will have to transfer at Fujisawa station to get the train to Enoshima, but it's a quick ride from there.
After leaving Katase-Enoshima, you will have to walk about 10 minutes along a bridge to reach Enoshima. As the lighting up starts at 5 PM, we arrived at Katase-Enoshima about 4:30, and began our trek over from then.
Here’s two points to consider with regards to timing your trip.
1: When we arrived at the station we were welcomed with an amazing sunset that we were able to enjoy while crossing the bridge to Enoshima. On a clear day you can get a nice view of Mount Fuji from this bridge as well, so arriving while there is still some light can provide you with some nice views beyond the light up.
Also, being early to anything like this in Japan is always a bonus, especially when you are traveling with children. As the night goes on, these illuminations can get quite crowded. Arriving early, and leaving early is something I highly recommend. Arriving early really saved us once we entered the park as well, which I will mention in a second.
Upon arriving at Enoshima visitors are greeted with many shops and stalls along a steeply inclined road up the island. This can be a great spot to grab a few snacks or drinks before heading into the main illumination area. We didn’t notice too many opportunities to eat once we were inside. The few we did see had a decent line up waiting outside.
Illuminations at the Top
Now, the main illumination area is located at the top of the island and there are two ways to reach them.
One is to simply follow the path and walk up. If you have the time and are of decent health, this is not all that difficult. It’s also an enjoyable way to see all of the temples and other spots along the way.
The other option is to take several escalators up to the top. For the escalators there is of course a cost. But as we were traveling with our son in a stroller, this was by far the better option. Please double check related websites for prices, but we paid about ￥800 JPY per adult (about $7 USD) to ride all the escalators up.
This price also included our admission to the main illumination area and the Enoshima Sea Candle, which is a large tower inside the main illumination area.
Along the path up the island there are several small illumination areas to enjoy, but the main illumination is in the Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden. If you walk up to this point there will be a fee for your entrance, but if you ride the escalators, like we did, the fee is included in the initial ticket price.
Shooting the Lights
Once in the garden, take your time and explore as there are many areas with various different types of illuminations. All are great for photo opportunities and to enjoy at your leisure.
One of the highlights is the long light tunnel just before reaching the Enoshima Sea Candle. Lots of people will be taking pictures here, so be prepared for a slow stroll through the tunnel. And if you are on the taller side like myself, be a little careful as the lights will hang low enough to bop you in the head as you walk through, haha.
I really enjoyed this tunnel though, and the look on my two year old’s face was just priceless. There was lots of “kirei” (beautiful) being said by everyone as we made our way through.
Hints for Visiting Enoshima’s Sea Candle
Exiting the tunnel you find yourself at what could be said to be the main light up area, as well as the base of the Enoshima Sea Candle.
One thing I should mention here is that the Enoshima Sea Candle is very popular and the lineup for taking the elevator up can get long quite suddenly. If you are looking to visit the top of the tower I highly suggest doing this as soon as you arrive at the base, the earlier the better. When we lined up we only had about a 5 minute wait or so, but by the time we had come back down the line up had more than tripled in size.
There is a really nice view from the top, so I do recommend making the trip. Once you get up there, the main viewing area is the glassed-in first floor. However, if you are brave and dressed warmly, there is a second floor above, and it's open to the elements with a great unobstructed view.
If you are looking to take pictures from above, this higher level is much better as you will not have to deal with all the reflections in the glass windows.
Rounding Out the Trip
After checking out the main area, we started to head back down as it was getting crowded (even though it was a weeknight) and getting close to my son’s bedtime. Although we were able to take escalators up, please be aware the main way down is to walk, and there are a good number of stairs.
I was able to carry my son down with relative ease, but for single parents of small kids, or families with several children, this may take a little extra time.
Go slow and enjoy. There are several illuminated spots you get to see on the way down that you missed by taking the escalators on the way up.
Also I should mention you really need to be prepared. Take some warm clothes with you when visiting this illumination.
We warmed up while walking across the bridge, but it was really cold the night we went. There were many people who chose fashion over comfort, and you could easily tell they were freezing. Saying that, it was a really great trip to take with my family and something I would like to make a family tradition in my house for the holiday seasons to come.
Finally, looking on the official website there seems to be many areas around Enoshima that are illuminated that we did not visit due to time constraints. Please take a moment to check the official website for full details before you go.