The Married Couple Rocks of Futami Okitama
Meoto Iwa is the name of a couple of sacred rocks, the "husband and wife rocks," affiliated to Futami Okitama Shinto shrine in Ise Bay, Mie prefecture. The two famous rocks joined by a shimenawa rope are part of beautiful views from Futaminoura Beach with the ocean and sunrise as backgrounds.
West to Ise, on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, the name of Futami district literally means "second viewing," and derives from a legend according to which a princess found the landscape so beautiful that she came back a second time to view it again. Ever since, Japanese people throughout the country have been attracted by the coast of Shima Peninsula they visit at the occasion of a pilgrimage to Ise Grand Shrine.
The symbol of Ise’s seaside
The "Wedded Rocks," or Meoto Iwa in Japanese, seem to be watching the ocean together, embraced in their shimenawa rope. They symbolize the couple Izanagi and Izanami, the male and female deities from the Japanese mythology, who created the archipelago and were the parents of the most important kami gods of the Shinto pantheon.
Nature and seasons unite to let Meoto Iwa in the heart of a beautiful scenery, especially when the sun or the moon rise between the two rocks:
- From May to July, the sun rises between the rocks, with a perfect alignment on the morning of the summer solstice,
- From October to February, the cold months allow to see the moon appearing between the symbolical married couple, with the evening of the winter solstice giving the natural satellite a central place.
Furthermore, the locals like to gather in front of the sacred rocks to admire the first sunrise of the year. The splattering of the waves and the ocean spray on the rocks is enjoyable in every season, and one can almost walk to their base at low tide.
Located about 700 meters from the land, the rocks are also used as a torii ⛩️ gate for Futami Okitama-jinja shrine, to which they belong and that is located along the rocky seaside.
The toads' shrine
The modest enclosure is hugging the coast’s curbs. The alley leading to Futami Okitama’s main hall is bordered by frogs statues, of different sizes and colors. Frogs are the messengers of one of the kami deities enshrined here and bring good fortune to those who sprinkle them with water. As a matter of fact, a large part of the statues were offered by worshipers.
People come to Futami Okitama-jinja to pray for:
- Safe travel, in a reference to Ise that welcomes pilgrims all year long,
- Happy wedding or to find a spouse, and,
- Good fortune.
Most of the visitors are Japanese, couples or small groups of celibates who come to seek the deity’s intervention in the quest of their significant other.
The shrines holds a great festival named Oshimenawa Harikae Shinji three times a year: in May, in September and in December, to replace the sacred rope shimenawa on Meoto Iwa. The shimenawa is actually composed of 5 cords rolled around themselves and each of them is weighting about 40kg. The replacement is made by a group of ten men who climb the rocks at 10 a.m. This event attracts a crowd of onlookers, and those brave enough to dive into the ocean in winter are cheerfully applauded.
From the local JR station, the Omote-sando street that leads to Futami Okitama shrine is partially ornamented with beautiful lanterns, that separate the beach 🏖 on one side and Futami merchants area on the other side, where the exploration can continue afterwards.