Saturday, 28 April 2018

Enoshima for Lunch: The Perfect Golden Week Day-Trip

As mentioned in an earlier post, despite "hard-working" (kinben =勤勉) being the dominant image of the Japanese, both inside and outside Japan, the Japanese actually enjoy more national holidays than many other countries. Now "Golden Week" (ゴールデンウィーク) is upon us, a cluster of holidays that provide a "golden" opportunity to take consecutive days off. The holidays consist of Showa Day (昭和の日) on April 29th (moved to Monday 30th this year) through to Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpō ki'nen-bi=憲法記念日), Greenery Day (Midori no hi=みどりの日), and Children's Day (Kodomo no hi=こどもの日) on May 3rd, 4th, and 5th respectively. In practice, however, Golden Week is crowded and travel (especially flights) exorbitantly expensive, so many Japanese choose to stay home and recharge their batteries - or take a day-trip.

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A perfect destination for a day-trip from Tokyo is Enoshima (江の島), a small off-shore island just over an hour south-west of Tokyo that is joined to the mainland by a 600m bridge. You can arrive either at Enoshima Station (on the Enoshima electric railway or enoden) or Katase-Enoshima Station (pictured) which is modelled on the Dragon Palace in the famous Japanese folk-tale Urashima Taro. The story, which sees the fisherman protagonist spend three days in the underwater palace only to find that three-hundred years have passed when he returns to his village, is used by Japanese to refer to people who have returned from abroad after a lengthy absence to find that many things have changed.

Like many tourist sites in Japan, Enoshima has a "must-eat" speciality or meibutsu (名物) associated with it, and in this case it is shirasu (白子) which is an almost transparent boiled whitebait/whitefish. These are the tiny young fry of sardines, anchovy, or herring - much smaller than the UK equivalent - which are full of calcium and DHA. They are typically sprinkled on top of white rice to make what is known as a shirasu-don, an abbreviation of donburi (丼) which refers to any bowl of rice with food on top (see here for a post on the popular fast food gyūdon or beef bowl). The picture shows a bowl of rice with whitebait, salted salmon roe (ikura), and fatty tuna minced with spring onion (negitoro) - with a blob of wasabi in the centre. This is kind of a kaisen-don (海鮮丼) or seafood-bowl though a kaisen-don proper would also have lots of sashimi on top too. Needless to say it is ridiculously good! Happy Golden Week everyone!!