江の島岩屋

Enoshima Iwaya Cave


Useful Information

Location: 2 Enoshima, Fujisawa City, 251-0036.
Enoshima island.
(35.298596, 139.475331)
Open: All year daily 9-16.
[2022]
Fee: Adults JPY 500, Children (6-15) JPY 200.
Groups (20+): 20% discount.
[2022]
Classification: Speleologysea cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: First Cave. L=152 m.
Second Cave: L=56 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Enoshima Iwaya Cave, Fujisawa City Tourist Center, Tel: +81-466-22-4141.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1182 Minamoto no Yoritomo prayed here for the conquest of Fujiwara no Hidehira in Oshu.

Description

江の島岩屋 (Enoshima Iwaya Cave) is located at the southern coast of the small limestone island Enoshima. The island is connected to the main island and the rest of the prefecture by a road bridge. The eastern part of the island is actually a harbour and the western part is a limestone rock with steep cliff faces. The cave entrance is in the middle of the cliff face and is reached across a 128 m long bridge. It offers a great view of Sagami Bay and Mount Fuji, Hakone, and Izu. There are actually two caves, the First Cave and the Second Cave. Yes we know, the names are a little silly, but that's what we read. The cave contains numerous historical and cultural exhibits. The first cave is considered a religious place and many visitors enter it with a candle in the hand. The candles are offered for free at the entrance.

According to legend Kobo Daishi and Nichiren Shonin came here to train. In 1182 Minamoto no Yoritomo prayed here for the conquest of Fujiwara no Hidehira in Oshu. Also, the Iwaya Caves are said to be the birthplace of Enoshima Shrine and has been worshipped since ancient times. Since the Edo period the place was popular and drew many worshippers as a sacred place of the Benzaiten religion.

弁才天 (Benzaiten) is a Japanese Buddhist goddess who originated from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. She is the goddess of everything that flows: water, time, words, speech, eloquence, music and by extension, knowledge.

In the 13th year (552 A.D. by traditional dating) of the reign of Emperor Kinmei, dark clouds covered the sea at the watergate (entrance) to the lake from the estuary of the Southern Sea (Sagami Bay) at Eno. The clouds lasted from around 8:00 pm of the 12th day to 8:00 am of the 23rd day of the fourth month. Large earthquakes shook the earth day and night. Then the goddess appeared above the clouds, with servants at her left and right. The myriad spirits — dragon-spirits, the spirits of water, fire, thunder, and lightning, as well as mountain spirits, ghosts, spirits of the dead, and demons — made great boulders descend from above the clouds and rocks and sand spurt up from the bottom of the sea. Lightning bolts flashed, and flames flickered amidst the white-tipped waves. On the 23rd day of the month at the hour of the dragon (around 8:00 am) the clouds disappeared, the haze dispersed, and an island was seen to have emerged in the sea amidst the blue waves — a new mount made by the spirits. Twelve cormorants descended to perch on the island. This is why it then was also dubbed "Island to Which Cormorants Come" Displaying her exquisite, brilliant charms, the goddess descended into the Golden Grotto. It was none other than Benzaiten, the third daughter of the dragon-king of Munetsuchi, manifesting herself in the flesh. Manifesting herself in the flesh, the goddess, the third daughter of the benevolent dragon-king of Munetsuchi, the elder sister of Lord Enma (also Yama), ruler of Hades, the younger sister of [Dragon-]King Baso, descended upon that island. Adorned with a long jade pendant and a blood-red ornament, and making a strumming [or slapping] sound, she shined like the autumn moon enveloped in mist and sparkled like spring flowers dripping with dew. Upon seeing the charms of the heavenly goddess, the five-headed dragon of the lake wanted to tell her of his deepest desire. Riding the waves, he came to the island and sought to tell her of his love. The goddess replied, "I have made a pledge of compassion and pity [for all creatures]. But you mercilessly and rapaciously end their lives. In body and heart we are complete opposites. And that is all the more reason that your desire makes no sense!" The dragon spoke, "I will follow your teachings. From now on, I will refrain forever from harboring a heart set on destruction and from harming living beings. Instead, I ask you to make me compassionate, able to follow and carry out your will." The goddess then consented. Thereupon, the dragon pledged to follow her teachings and faced south, becoming a large hill. The people of that time named the hill "Tatsu-no-kuchi-yama" (Dragon's Mouth Hill). It was also called "Benevolent Spirit-Guardian of the Dead Children." This is the island transformed and created by the goddess Benzaiten, using her expedient powers [to lead beings to the truth] in order to save sentient beings from the savagery and evil of the dragon. As a goddess who manifested herself as a savior, she is thus is known as the beneficial spirit enshrined at Enoshima.
Robert A. Juhl, Ph.D. (2003): The Goddess, the Dragon, and the Island.

In other words, the goddess tamed a dragon that once devoured many children by becoming his consort. And so the second cave is the realm of the dragon, with a