Enoshima Island Spa
A Best-Kept Secret Within a Best-Kept Secret
Laurier Tiernan near one pannel in the wall of windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean from The Island Grill Restaurant
Anyone who scratches the surface of daily life in Japan, will realize that it is the land of best kept secrets. However, the land of the rising sun is also often home to matrioshka-style ones; best-kept secrets within best-kept secrets, within best-kept secrets.
One of my very favorites in that vein, is Enoshima Island Spa. With the myriad of distractions and entertainment that Greater Tokyo has on offer, Enoshima Island per se, is a best-kept secret in and of itself . A short bridge away from the famous beach that is a favorite haunt for Kanto youth in summertime, it is a veritable treasure-trove of antique shrines, hole-in-the wall souvenir shops, and ma-and-pa eateries; many with a good view of the ocean. A quaint old lighthouse, surrounded by a picturesque garden stands at its apex, and, those feeling fit enough to hike to the far side of the island will be rewarded by sacred caves.
On the most accessible edge of this diamond of a time machine, lies Enoshima Island Spa. Established in 2004, it brings modernity to the historic setting, comfort in a rustic backdrop. Stacking four floors, it houses a mind-boggling array of settings in which to relax and rejuvenate. The second (or "Ground") floor hosts the luxurious lobby, check-in desk, jacuzzi-style baths, a central mini swimming pool, a beverage bar, and an array of soothing outdoor pools on their expansive seaside terrace. One floor below (accessible by elevator or outdoor staircase) another refreshment bar serves as the backdrop for two warm mini pools built into one of the island's natural caves, an "infinity" pool, a mini waterfall, and an exemplary sauna.
Free to all patrons of Enoshima Island Spa, this first-rate sauna hosts complimentary aroma-therapy steam baths at designate times of the day (enquire at the check-in counter in advance, or check with the staff on the day of your visit). As the aromatherapist diffuses therapeutic scented oils into the steam, she walks from guest to guest, briskly waving a small towel to ensure proper air circulation, and to maximize the efficiency of the steam. Also, to ensure the physical well-being of all present, she routinely distributes special ice cubes, which patrons are instructed to suck in order to rehydrate. While being purely irreligious in presentation, the overall effect is intensely spiritual, grounding, and healing.
Two floors up, on the third floor, the baths are segregated by sex, and are enjoyed in the nude. Here we are treated to one of the most ancient and treasured relaxation tools of the Japanese people; the onsen (or "hot springs"). Various baths within the onsen rooms, are said to contain different levels of mineral content, and are set to different temperatures (for different purposes); all highly enjoyable, and all of which can be enjoyed with a view of Mt. Fuji, on a clear day.
The fourth floor is home to both the Island Grill Restaurant and the Beng Teng Spa. The Island Grill Restaurant presents a satisfying array of European, Japanese, and fusion-style cuisine, in both à-la-carte and course menus. Its presentation approaches fine-dining, without an exorbitant cost, and every seat provides stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, the surrounding area, and Mt. Fuji; weather permitting. For those island visitors looking to pamper themselves before or after dinner, Beng Teng Spa represents luxurious care with a magnificent reputation. Placing in the Top 10, four years in a row, (according to the Japanese association of spa and wellness businesses) Beng Teng Spa's menu offers body treatments, detox treatments, mud wraps, facials, massages, lymph drainage, and scalp treatments. Special Wedding Anniversary and Christmas plans are now in effect (autumn 2015). Also, from November 1st to December 31st (2015) Beng Teng Spa will waive the General Admission fee to Enoshima Island Spa, for all its customers booking a treatment longer than 60 minutes.
I highly recommend spending the whole day on the island or arriving late, if you can, because sunset is free, and it is one of the most spectacular things I have seen in my life. When I first arrived in Japan 13.5 ago, my first apartment was at Higashi-Rinkan station, in Sagamihara city, Kanagawa prefecture. Feeling adventurous on the first weekend after I arrived, I looked at a map of the prefecture, and found out that I only had to take one train to get to the ocean. I awoke early the next day, and jumped on the train which took me straight to Katase-Enoshima station, with its spectacular view of Enoshima Island. I spent the day exploring the island, and delighted in the exemplary hiyashi chuka served by the rickety eatery perched on crags that carpet the island's far side. As sunset approached, I decided to catch it while sipping a beer at a café I had spotted upon my arrival on the island. That view is still one of my favorite memories, over a decade later, and having visited more places than I can remember. In recent years, I have enjoyed that "same" sunset with my wife, as well as with one of my best friends; both from inside the baths of Enoshima Island Spa, and from up inside The Island Grill Restaurant. That sunset is just as mind-blowing, every time.