You might have already seen the scenic “Meoto Iwa” on photos and wondered what it is and where you can find it?
Two rocks connected by a rope, standing strong in the rough ocean.
Sounds kind of lame at first?
The Sacred Meoto Iwa in Ise
The big rope that ties the rocks together is called “shimenawa” (注連縄).
Made of braided rice stacks, it’s about 35 m long and actually very heavy.
Everything that’s enclosed by the rope becomes sacred and is protected from evil.
Several times a year (May 5, September 5, weekend in mid December) there’s a ceremony to replace the sacred rope.
According to Shinto religion, Izanagi and Izanami are the creators of all Shinto kami (gods).
Meoto Iwa represents the divine union of these two. It’s also a symbol to celebrate the marriage of a man and a woman.
The larger rock personifies the man, the smaller one the woman. The “husband rock” has a tiny Shinto gate on top and is about 9 m away from the “wife rock”.
A lot of Japanese couples actually visit to pray for a happy wedding.
Best Time to Visit Meoto Iwa
It’s best to visit in summer (May – July) because you can see how the sun rises just between the two divine rocks.
But from autumn to winter you can see the full moon between the wedded rocks, so that’s also quite nice.
If you’re lucky (unlike me), you can see Mt. Fuji on very clear days.
You should better visit during high tide when the rocks are separated by the ocean.
Please check to make sure about the tide schedule.
Futami Okitama Shrine
Right next to Meoto Iwa stands Futami Okitama Shrine (二見興玉神社) which worships Miketsu, a goddess of food.
The scenery above reminded me a lot of Aoshima Shrine in Miyazaki.
You’ll find a lot of frog statues around the shrine.
They’re seen as “lucky charms” to bring back things or people that are currently gone / lost.
It’s easy to explain where this belief is coming from if you look at the Japanese language.
Frog in Japanese is pronounced as “kaeru” (蛙, noun) – which can also mean “bring back / come back” (返る / 帰る verb).
I heard you’re supposed to rub the statues to “trigger the charm”. ;)
As you can see, the shrine is literally next to Meoto Iwa.
Personally, I wonder if there’s a connection between the rocks where you pray for a happy, long marriage and the frog charms that are supposed to bring back people you love ………….. Maybe I’m interpreting too much?!
I liked the ema of the shrine so much that I bought one.
I went with the one that didn’t have the zodiac on it. 2010 was the year of the tiger, so there was also a tiger version.
The shrine also had a really impressive collection of huge shells.
Other “Wedded Rocks” in Japan
By the way, Meoto Iwa in Ise aren’t the only sacred rocks in Japan!
They’re definitely the most famous, but if you can’t go to Ise, check out the following list:
- Futami Iwa: Ichinoseki (Iwate Pref.)
- Meoto Iwa: Nikko (Ibaraki Pref.)
- Noto Futami: Shika (Ishikawa Pref.)
- Fuufu Iwa: Nakano (Nagano Pref.)
- Meoto Iwa: Nakatsugawa (Gifu Pref.)
- Meoto Iwa: Takatsuki (Osaka Pref.)
- Meoto Iwa: Matsuyama (Ehime Pref.)
- Meoto Iwa: Bizen (Okayama Pref.)
- Meoto Iwa: Itoshima (Fukuoka Pref.)
- Meotoze: Naha (Okinawa)
This is actually just a very small selection. The full list can be found here on Wikipedia (Japanese).
I’d really love to see the one in Itoshima (Fukuoka) one day.
Have you been to any of these?