The other day, escaping earlier than expected from school, I decided on a whim to head down to Enoshima. It was a beautiful, sunny Winter day and I wanted to go for a walk on the beach. At the end of the Odakyu line, about an hour and a half from Tokyo, Enoshima is a town that belongs to another era – the time before jet travel spirited away the holidaying masses. Before there was Phuket, or Guam, there was Enoshima – with its coarse grey beaches, its kitschy stores and shooting parlors, and its “Sacred Island” – once famous for caves and hidden shrines, and now full of loudspeakers blasting Mariah Carey and stores selling horrific blowfish household ornaments. Enoshima still has a kind of faded carnival vibe. I got out of the bogus Chinese-temple style trainstation and wandered across a rubbish-strewn square and a little bridge. In the Summer, it would be packed. In July and August, for one short, sweaty, hormonal burst, Enoshima reclaims its holiday crown, albeit with a new deomgraphic – teenagers- who flood in to dance and tan and lie on the beach and check each other out. But now it was Winter, and it was dead, and old. I walked down a long street of boarded-up souvenir stores and found one little street that looked like nothing had changed there since the 1950s. It had that quaint – yet slightly ridiculous – air that these little forgotten pockets sometimes have in Japan. The shops all looked dusty and impoverished, with poorly displayed goods in unfashionable varieties – weird roots in jars, gutted fish in bamboo baskets, a photographers studio with sunfaded pictures of girls in kimonos, in ludicrous frames. It looked rundown, and yet it certainly had charm. There was a sense of a real community here, a hardy and inward-looking one, that had nothing to do with the Summer influx. These shops were clearly locally-owned, for local people. And every other store had some kind of arresting sign or logo – like “Have a Nice Day, Have a Nice Smoking” or a kerbside vending machine selling “Rony Wrinkle” condoms… Or this fish shop called “Funazen”, displaying its name with this amazing, funky calligraphy When it was time to go I found – of all things – a monorail station to whisk me back to Fujisawa, but even here, what should have been gleaming and hypermodern instead looked dusty and clanky and under-used. The monorail station didn’t announce itself with its modernity – it blended right in, as if it had been there forever. There were no other passengers. A strange little Twilight Zone ‘hood….
Out of season3 02 2008