Yesterday I went on a trip to Enoshima (江ノ島), a small island on the Pacific Ocean (太平洋 taiheiyou) in the Kanagawa prefecture (神奈川県). By train, it takes a couple of hours to get there from Tokyo. I left Sugamo with a group of friends from the EAP program, taking the Yamanote line from Sendai to Shinagawa. There, we met Mari, a Japanese student from JWU, and then took the Yokosuka line (横須賀線) through Yokohama all the way to Kamakura station (鎌倉駅).

At Kamakura, we took a detour to check out Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu (鶴岡八幡宮), the biggest shrine in Kamakura. We happened to drop by on the day of the shrine’s shinkousai (神幸祭). The word 神幸際 contains three kanji, 神 (shin) meaning God, 幸 (kou) meaning happiness, and 際 (sai) meaning festival; giving 神幸際 a meaning along the lines of “festival for the happiness of the gods.” Shinkousai takes place over several days. First, the objects that the shinrei (神霊, divine spirit(s)) dwell in are transferred to mikoshi (神輿, portable shrine). Then the mikoshi are paraded out of the shrine to a location called otabisho (御旅所), where they sit for a few days. Then, the mikoshi are returned to the shrine in another procession. Finally, the shinrei are returned to their places in the shrine. We happened to stop by right before the mikoshi were brought down from the shrine.

When we arrived at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, the sandou (参道, road approaching the shrine) was teeming with people. About half were obviously tourists with cameras while the other half were dressed up in traditional Japanese outfits, including hakama (袴), joue (浄衣), and hitatare (直垂). I actually saw a couple of old Japanese guys wearing hitatare taking pictures of each other with cell phones. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a good picture of them. After making our way to the foot of the stairs that lead up the hill to the temple, we decided to stick around and see what all the fuss was about. After about an hour and a half of debating whether or not to just give up and get some lunch, three priests dressed in traditional kariginu (狩衣) came down the steps, followed a few minutes later by three large mikoshi carried by a whole bunch of men wearing white joue. They joined the rest of the precession on the sandou and then headed out toward the ocean. The sandou for Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu is 1.8 km long and leads all the way to the ocean, forming the street Wakamiya Ooji (若宮大路) in the surrounding city of Kamakura (鎌倉).

This was the first trip I was able to really use my new Canon EF-S 10-22mm F/3.5-4.5 USM lens. I was able to take very nice pictures of the mikoshi from about six feet away. The only problem is that the lens is so wide I was seeing the cameras of the people standing next to me at the edges of the frame. Oh, well; crop tool to the rescue.

After climbing up the stairs to the top of the hill and checking out the honguu (本宮, main shrine), we ate udon (うどん) for lunch at a nearby restaurant and then started working our way back to the station. We took the Enoshima Electric Railway (江ノ島電鉄) to Enoshima Station (江ノ島駅). Since Enoshima Station is not actually on Enoshima, we had a bit of a walk to get there.

Once we got to Enoshima, we walked up the main street to the temple, Enoshima Jinja (江ノ島神社). On the way, we stopped for ice cream and tako senbei (蛸, タコ, or 章魚; octopus plus 煎餅; rice cracker). Tako senbei is essentially a large rice cracker that has an octopus pressed into it. It mostly just tastes salty, but you can definitely see the octopus that has been pressed into the cracker.

The shrine is part of a larger park that takes up most of the island. Unfortunately, it was a bit late in the day by the time we got there, so we only checked out the shrine and didn’t really venture out into the park. Perhaps I will have to come back at some point and really check it out properly. My new wide-angle lens also allowed for a few interesting photo opportunities, including the group shot on the staircase and significantly more freedom in framing the shots of the setsumassha (摂末社, auxiliary and branch shrines).

After leaving the shrine, we walked back across the bridge to the mainland and stopped at a nearby beach for a while to get our feet wet. At that point it was too dark to run around outside much more, so we walked back to the station and took the train home.