Written by Hilary Keyes
The Wedded Rocks - A Stunning Sight Off Mie’s Coastline
The Meoto-iwa are a pair of unusual rocks considered sacred by Shinto, the native religion of Japan, and are bound together by a sacred rope. If you happen to be traveling in Mie prefecture, don’t miss out on this amazing sight!
I have made a few trips to Mie and Wakayama prefectures before, and wrote about my last visit to Wakayama here, but today I’d like to talk about a different trip I took specifically to Mie prefecture, to see some of its famous historic sites.
Mie is best known as the home of Ise Grand Shrine, but to me, one of the most moving sights I saw there were the Meoto-iwa Rocks. It began raining while I was there, so the scenery isn't as sunny as I would have liked, but the impact of the shrines and the stones themselves was still impressive.
If you’d like to know more about Ise Grand Shrine, the main attraction of the area, see Visit Ise Grand Shrine, The Home Of The Japanese Soul, Best Souvenirs from Okage Yokochō, Nearby Ise Grand Shrine, and Right by Ise Shrine! 4 Delicious Treats Specific to Okage Yokochō.
What Are the Meoto-Iwa Rocks?
The Meoto-iwa, or the Wedded Rocks, are two sacred stones found in the ocean near the town of Futami, which is part of Ise city, near Futami-Okitama Shrine and Ryuugu Shrine, and a fairly close drive to Ise Grand Shrine itself. If you are traveling by train, they are a 15-minute walk from JR Futaminoura Station.
The larger of the two stones is said to be Oiwa, the husband, and the smaller one is Meiwa, the wife. They are connected to one another by a shimenawa rope which is a sacred straw rope that indicates a particular space is sacred. This rope also acts as the barrier between the mortal and immortal realms. This straw rope must be replaced three times a year due to the effect of the ocean and weather on the straw, which is no easy feat given that it weighs over a ton. Whenever the rope is replaced, a special ceremony takes place at Futami-Okitama Shrine.
If you look closely, you can also see a small torii standing on top of the husband stone. This also designates the rocks as a place sacred to the deities of Japan.
The Significance of the Meoto-Iwa
Photo used under: Wikimedia Creative Commons License
According to Shinto belief, these rocks represent the two original creator gods of Japan, Izanami-no-Mikoto (the goddess), and Izanagi-no-Mikoto (the god). As a result, these rocks, as well as Futami-Okitama Shrine, are said to be especially lucky for those seeking relationships, marital harmony, and other relationship-based bliss. This is also a shrine where people come to pray for relationships to improve, or for those lost at sea.
Actually, Futami-Okitama Shrine is home to many different Shinto deities, including Uka-no-Mitama, a deity associated with food and agriculture that is often identified with Inari, and Sarutahiko Okami, the leader of the earthly gods of Japan, and patron of aikido and other martial arts. The messenger of this god is the frog, and this is why the Futami-Okitama Shrine is covered in frog statues, and frog illustrations.
The word frog in Japanese is ‘kaeru’, which is a homonym of the word ‘to return’ or ‘to bring back’, which is a fitting match for a shrine where people often to pray for what (or who) they have lost to come back to them. Near the shrine there is a small shop where worshipers can purchase omamori amulets and omikuji fortune papers also decorated with depictions of frogs and of the Meoto-iwa.
If you follow the pathway by the shrine and past the rocks, you will find Ryuugu Shrine, a small shrine dedicated to the great water deity and dragon god Ryojin, who is also sometimes known as Owatatsumi-no-kami. This shrine is also considered to be a great power spot as well, though it is less well-known than the Meoto-iwa and Futami-Okitama Shrine.
Taking the pathway to the end will bring you to Futami Plaza, which has a small souvenir and restaurant complex, as well as Ise Sea Paradise, a small but entertaining aquarium. If you are interested in a very retro Japan sightseeing spot, this plaza can be quite fun - but don’t be surprised if you are the only non-Japanese people there. On the pathway in the opposite direction from the Meoto-iwa, you will find the Hinjitsukan, a historical building that was once the official accommodation for the Imperial family when visiting Ise Grand Shrine, which now stands as a museum open to the public. Hinjitsukan was also designated as an Important Cultural Asset by the Japanese government.
Mie is the Place to Go!
Fans of Japanese history, religion, and culture in general will surely have heard of Ise Grand Shrine, but if you would like to see something truly spectacular and feel the awesome power of nature at the same time, I recommend making the journey here, to the Meoto-iwa, and to seeing both Futami-Okitama Shrine, and Ryuugu Shrine too.