The Island’s Shinto Complex
Enoshima-jinja is a Shinto shrine located on the heights of Enoshima, as small Japanese island on Fujisawa City’s territory in Kanagawa prefecture. The site includes three different pavilions dedicated to the deity Benten, whose most famous is Hetsunomiya.
A must-see on the island, Enoshima-jinja is an introduction to a larger cultural wealth. It is not only one monument, but rather a Shinto shrine complex, with three distinct shrines scattered throughout the island:
- Hetsunomiya 辺津宮, built in 1206 and completely renovated in 1976.
- Nakatsunomiya 中津宮, built in 853, whose last renovation was in 1996; and,
- Okutsunomiya 奥津宮 with a more rustic look, whose construction date is unknown.
All three pavilions have been reconstructed on several occasions over time, but they all possibly originate from an initial shrine built in 552 by emperor Kinmei in a cave in the south of Enoshima. The three triangles emblem was used by the Hojo clan and represents the three scales of the island’s protector dragon.
The most famous of the three is naturally Hetsu, the main shrine immediately at the end of Enoshima Bridge. It is introduced by a bright red torii ⛩️, vermillion lanterns 🏮, and protected by the majestic Zuishin-mon gate. From there, long stairways wind between various Shinto buildings. The red Nakatsu, with countless stone lanterns, is the closest to Hetsu and is to be discovered at the beginning of the walk. Another ten minutes’ walk towards Iwaya are necessary to reach Okutsu, that stands on the other end of the island.
This Shinto complex is among the three largest of Japan (with Itsukushima in Miyajima and Hogon-ji near Kyoto) dedicated to Ben(zai)ten, the only goddess among the Japanese Seven Gods of Fortune. Enoshima’s three great kami are also worshipped: Tagiri-hime no Mikoto, Ichikishima-hime no Mikoto and Tagitsu-hime no Mikoto. Near Hetsunomiya, a statue of Benzaiten is sheltered in the small octagonal shrine Hoanden.