19 Must-Visit Places Around Shonan: From Classics to Hidden Spots!
Located in the southern part of Kanagawa Prefecture, the beautiful region of Shonan is frequently featured on TV shows and magazines due to its numerous tourist attractions. In this article, you will get to know more about this amazing place and its sightseeing spots: from the most classic ones that almost everyone knows about to some still under the radar and off the beaten track!
Sep 02 2019 (Nov 06 2019)
Top 10 Classic Spots
You cannot talk about the Shonan area without first mentioning one of its most well-known tourist spots: Enoshima. Located in Fujisawa City, the beautiful island of Enoshima is a bit far from the closest train station but totally worth the effort. You can reach the island by crossing the Enoshima Ohashi Bridge by car, or you can walk across the Benten Bridge.
Selected as one of the 100 most beautiful places in Japan and also designated as a Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty by the government of Kanagawa, Enoshima is on the top of the list of famous locations in Shonan. With popular tourist attractions such as the Lighthouse Observation Tower and Enoshima Shrine, the island has a whole host of sightseeing options you should definitely check out. In recent years, this traditional tourist location has been receiving more and more visitors from abroad!
2. Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden / Enoshima Sea Candle (Lighthouse Observation Tower)
Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden is home to a wide variety of tropical plants that you can admire throughout the four seasons. Inside its gorgeous premises, you can find the Lighthouse Observation Tower also known as Enoshima Sea Candle, a symbol of Shonan. The observation deck is highly praised and offers a magnificent view of the surroundings.
Enoshima Sea Candle has special illumination events four times a year with lights of different colors representing each of the four seasons. The winter event called Shonan no Hoseki (Shonan’s Precious Stones) is especially beautiful and has even been officially recognized as one of the top 3 illumination events in the Kanto region, making it a great spot to go on a romantic date.
3. Enoshima Shrine
Enoshima Shrine is one of the three most famous Shinto shrines in Japan dedicated to Benzaiten, the goddess of wisdom and music, among other attributes. This site is located a 15-minute walking distance from Katase-Enoshima Station, the closest train station around. In the premises of Hetsunomiya, one of the three shrines found in the complex, you will find Hoanden, the curious octagonal-shaped pavilion where Benten-sama (another name for Benzaiten) is enshrined. By the way, the other two famous shrines besides Enoshima are Miyajima in Hiroshima and Chikubushima in Shiga, both located on islands as well.
As previously mentioned, Enoshima Shrine consists of three shrines that are dedicated to three sister goddesses. These goddesses are said to be the protectors of the sea and water but are also believed to bring happiness and fortune to those who come to worship. They are also said to help artists improve their crafts. How about taking some time to visit this mystical spot located on the island of Enoshima?
4. Enoshima Higashihama Beach
Selected as one of the 88 most recommended beaches in Japan by the Ministry of the Environment, Enoshima Higashihama Beach bustles with thousands of couples and families when summer season kicks off. Its easy access a few meters from Katase-Enoshima Station and the great view of the Miura Peninsula makes this beach very popular among visitors from all over Japan.
The swimming season starts on July 1st and finishes on August 31st, from 9 am to 5 pm. The beach is very convenient and offers many beach shacks and shops, not to mention a full range of commodities, including some 20 restrooms throughout the area. Around 1 million visitors come to Enoshima Higashihama Beach every year during the 2 months when the sea is open for swimming.
5. Enoshima Iwaya Caves
Located on the innermost part of the island, the Enoshima Iwaya Caves were created by thousands upon thousands of years of tidal erosion. Buddhist masters, such as Kukai and Nichiren, are said to have practiced asceticism on these grounds. The caves are also revered as the sacred site of the Benzaiten faith.
Enoshima Iwaya Caves consist of two caves: Cave Number 1 and Cave Number 2. These underground chambers have special illumination and acoustics, which makes for a very otherworldly experience. Here you will also find Ukiyo-e paintings depicting Enoshima, and sculptures inspired in the Legend of Ryujin, a famous Japanese myth related to the dragon god. As this tourist attraction is located some 40 minutes by foot from the closest station, visitors are recommended to take the cruise boat Benten-maru for a more convenient passage.
6. Tsujido Seaside Park
With extensive grounds divided into many different areas, such as the Jumbo Pool, Traffic Park, and Flower Studio, you can spend a whole day having fun at Tsujido Seaside Park. It is the perfect place to bring your children to play. There is a parking lot on the west and another on the east part of the park with a total of 800 spaces making this a great place to stop by after a drive around Shonan.
Tsujido Seaside Park offers you the opportunity of admiring a wide range of different species of flowers across the year, including narcissuses, cherry blossoms, hydrangeas, irises, and many more. You will find lots of benches spread throughout the park where you can sit and relax after strolling around. You are bound to have a pleasant time here.
7. Terrace Mall
Directly connected to Tsujido Station’s North Exit, you find Terrace Mall. This shopping facility features everything that you might need, such as a mall, shops, supermarket, restaurants, and even a movie theater. It is the perfect location to spend the whole day when it is raining outside, not to mention it is a great place to go on a date.
When you start to get hungry from all the walking in this massive shopping mall, you should head to Shonan Marche where you can find a great number of shops selling a wide range of food. The selection of Japanese and Western cuisine, not to mention desserts and sweets, is so plentiful, it is almost hard to decide where to go first!
8. Koibito no Oka (Lover’s Hill)
Located in the premises of Ryunogaoka Natural Forest, Koibito no Oka (Lover’s Hill) is the classic dating spot in Shonan where you can gaze at the famous Lover’s Bell. It is said that your love will last forever if you ring this bell together with your other half and then lock a padlock with your names written on it to the fence.
As the name suggests, it is located on top of a hill and offers a beautiful view of the surroundings. The sight of the sun setting in the sea at the end of the day is breathtaking! Depending on the time of the year, this spot also allows you to take a look at Enoshima Sea Candle and its beautiful lights, one of the attractions mentioned previously.
Asahi is the shop that sells the delicious Maruyaki Tako Senbei, a kind of rice cracker made with whole octopuses thinly grilled to perfection. The store is so popular there is always a line in front of it! This traditional local snack has been covered many times by Japanese and international media, gathering a large number of fans from Japan as well as abroad.
In order to accentuate the natural flavor of its main ingredient, Asahi seasons the octopuses with a secret sauce after washing them completely clean. They are then coated with flour and put on a special press machine consisting of two hot plates that generate approximately 1-ton of pressure and grill the ingredients from both sides for 2 minutes at a temperature of around 185 degrees Celsius. Watching this process is one of the fun parts of buying a Maruyaki Tako Senbei, besides eating it, of course!
Located inside the previously mentioned Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden, LONCAFE is a cafe that serves exquisite french toast. The eatery is known as the first shop ever to specialize in this delicious dish in Japan.
LONCAFE takes the proper time in preparing the bread to completely soak in the house’s original sauce, thus creating an exquisite french toast that is crispy on the outside and oozy on the inside. Besides the delicious dishes, the cafe also offers a beautiful view of Sagami Bay, making it a great spot to come with a couple of friends that also have sweet tooths!
4 Places to Visit Around Enoshima Station
1. Ryukoji Temple
The origins of Ryukoji Temple are said to trace back to 1337 when Nippo, a direct disciple of the prominent Buddhist priest Nichiren, made a statue of his master to consecrate the site where the episode known as Tatsunokuchi Persecution (an unsuccessful attempt to execute Nichiren) took place. The stone block where Nichiren laid his head to be executed is enshrined here.
A great Buddhist mass called Tasunokuchi Hoan-kai (Meeting of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution) is held at Ryukoji Temple every year from September 11 to 13. During this period, especially on the evening of the second day, a large number of different stalls are set on the temple’s premises attracting many people. How about taking some time to visit this site that is so close to Enoshima Station?
2. Naminori Chicken
The chicken karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken) that Naminori Chicken prepares is so good it was even nominated in the 3rd National Karaage Grand Prix (Flavor Variety category). Prices range from 100 yen a piece, but the low price is not the only thing that stands out, these fried beauties are also incredibly juicy!
One of the reasons behind Naminori Chicken’s popularity is its wide variety of flavors: 24 in total! You can choose from the classics, including Black Pepper, Oroshi Ponzu (grated radish with ponzu sauce) and Mayonnaise, to the more unusual ones, such as Spicy Curry and Parmigiano. Come prepared to find your next favorite karaage flavor at Naminori Chicken!
3. Lei Pikake Shonan Branch
Lei Pikake is a store specializing in Hawaiian jewelry. Every piece on offer at the shop is handmade by artisans from Hawaii, so you are bound to find that originality that only an item made by hand can offer here.
If you are thinking about getting married, how about opting for an order made engagement ring with Hawaiian motifs? Jewelry made by hand in Hawaii is said to be embedded with mana helping you express your deepest feelings with more than just words.
4. Katase Nishihama Kugenuma Beach
Katase Nishihama Kugenuma Beach is a very popular destination that offers a magnificent view of the island of Enoshima and Mt. Fuji. Another great feature of this beach, especially for families, is the fact that the water remains shallow a long way out, allowing parents to feel safe enough to let the children play freely.
Swimming season kicks off on July 1st and lasts until August 31st. Many beach shacks are also open during this period. Here you will also find beach volleyball courts where you can have a great time with friends and family completely free of charge, including the ball!
5 Hidden Gems in Shonan
1. Hiratsuka City Museum
One of the hidden gems of Shonan that you need to know about is the Hiratsuka City Museum. The theme behind the exhibitions here is “nature and culture around the Sagami River basin.” That is why every month the museum organizes grassroots events around the region and disseminates as much information as possible about its activities.
The entrance fee for the Hiratsuka City Museum is free excluding the planetarium. The staff explanations about the different stars and constellations are very interesting and easy to follow so anyone can enjoy this facility, including children. This hidden gem is a great place to visit with the kids!
2. Kana Garden - Kanagawa Prefectural Center of Flowers and Greenery
Kana Garden is a little-known destination in the Shonan area where you will be in direct contact with nature. The facility is divided into three different areas: first, there is the Flower Zone, where you can admire different flowers throughout the year; then, the Agri Zone where you can harvest vegetables with your own hands; and lastly Megumi no Kenkyu-to Zone, where you learn about agriculture and much more.
Kana Garden is home to around 1,300 different species of roses. At the Flower Zone, you find the Rose Garden, a place where you can enjoy a different aspect of these beautiful flowers. This area has exhibitions that explain about the fascinating history of rose breeding, the various classifications, and the different lineages. The best time of the year to visit this gorgeous place is from May to June.
3. Shonan Daira (Komayama Park)
Shonan Daira Hills refers to the flat area on the summit of Awatarayama Hill. Here you will find two different observation decks: the TV Tower Observation Deck and the Komayama Park Rest House Observation Deck, where you can enjoy a magnificent outlook of the sea and mountains, including the Sagami Bay and Mt. Fuji.
Shonan Daira Hills is a famous place not only for its superb nature but also for its beautiful cherry blossoms, attracting a large number of people to its grounds during early April. The view after dusk is also exceptional, so much so that it was even recognized as one of the 100 most beautiful nightscapes in Japan. How about experiencing both day and night to see which scenery is more breathtaking?
4. Southern Beach Chigasaki
The original name for this beach was Chigasaki Beach, but because this is where the lead singer of a very famous Japanese band called Southern All Stars was born, the beach was renamed Southern Beach Chigasaki. During summer, the place is bustling with people, but once the high season is over, it goes under the radar.
Southern Beach Chigasaki offers some of the best spots to admire Eboshi Rock and Mt. Fuji. Here you will also find the C-shaped monument Chigasaki Southern C, a famous symbol and sightseeing site in the area. With so many people enjoying the beach during summer, it's a bit difficult to admire the view, but you'll definitely be in for a surprise if you come here during off-season months.
5. Chigasaki Satoyama Park
Chigasaki Satoyama Park has a massive area of 35.2 hectares (36.8 hectares according to the final city planning project) overflowing with nature. The park has a wide range of attractions where children have a great time, such as ponds and long slides.
The park has a barbeque area furnished with some 20 tables, but the best part is that you can come empty-handed because they have all the ingredients and equipment on-site for you to use. As mentioned before, you will find a wide range of playground equipment – including a trampoline and roller slides – that will keep your kids entertained for a whole day. The park is highly recommended for people with children; it is completely free of charge and offers lots of fun.
Choose a Destination With an Objective in Mind
Shonan is packed full of tourist attractions. Whether you prefer mainstream places everybody goes or locations off the beaten track, you can find it all here! With so many options, it can be difficult to decide where to go first. Traveling around with no plan in mind is great, but sometimes you also want to do something specific in a particular location, right? There has never been a time in history with so much information as now. So, first, try and take some time to think about what kind of place you would like to visit and with whom you want to go. This way it is easier to find information that meets your needs. After that, all you have to do is embark on the journey to your final destination!
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Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.