The Enoshima Electric Railway, or Enoden for short, is a popular train line connecting Fujisawa in Kanagawa with Kamakura. A couple of weeks ago my mother and pastor visited from Chicago and we took some time away from clerical business to relax and sight-see at a more leisurely pace. Just days before their arrival though my fingers worked feverishly at the keyboard, searching for something new. Different yet classic. It wasn’t long before everyone was recommending the Enoden as a short but sweet alternative to the much faster but boring JR Yokosuka line. So we got up early, hopped on the Odakyu line to Fujisawa and entered the quaint, almost whimsical looking Enoden station to start our journey. It did not disappoint.
The Enoshima line got its start in 1902, making it over 100 years old. As we stood on the platform that drizzly Saturday morning, this fact was pretty clear when the two-car trains came rolling in. Some of them were slightly modern looking, while others sported turn of the century curves and steel fittings. The floors were rustic wooden panels, a dark chocolate color that one could imagine had been lacquered long ago.
The rain finally stopped, as the sun peeked over the clouds, and the train slowly eased out of the station. I really had no idea what to expect on this trip and I admit things looked normal at first with the initial stops: small crowds of high-schoolers pouring in, cell phones in hand; tall buildings in view, karaoke signage. Then before long we were weaving in and out of compact towns and gardens. Oranges hung from trees only a few feet from the tracks. Cameras came flying out of purses as the Enoden crossed small rivers running through neighborhoods nestled on hills. More than a few missed the view of a temple wedged between a grove on a steep hill on the left side of the train. The entry gate was so close to the tracks that we coasted right over the area one would take their first step to climb the hill.
Slow but with sharp turns, the Enoden felt like an intimate tour, a secret window into rural Japanese life that wouldn’t have been possible on a more powerful train with a straight course. This broadened so to speak when the train suddenly became a street car and left the standard train course one would expect and came strolling down the streets of a coastal town. All at once, we became part of the attraction as families outside the train laughed and took picture after picture.
Finally, the ocean came into view ahead and the Enoden turned back onto the train tracks as we journeyed along the coast. It was beautiful and a nostalgic, California vibe overtook me as a few surfers paddled out to meet modest waves and a “drive -inn” restaurant littered with parked cars seemed stuck in time. When we finally arrived at Kamakura, I knew from that point on that though the city often is the destination of note on many a travel list, the Enoden had proven to be a worthy gem all to itself.