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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Meteo Iwa 夫婦岩

Updated: Jan 14

Meoto Iwa (夫婦岩), or Married Couple Rocks, are a kind of rock formation seen as religiously significant in Shinto. They are a subtype of Iwakura rock

According to Shinto, the rocks represent the union of the creator kami, Izanagi and Izanami. The rocks, therefore, celebrate the union in marriage of man and woman.

The most famous pair is the pair at Futami Okitama Shrine in Futami-ura, two rocky stacks off the coast from Ise, Mie, Japan. They are joined by a shimenawa (a heavy rope of rice straw) and are considered sacred by worshippers of the shrine. The shimenawa, composed of five separate strands which each weigh 40 kilograms, must be replaced three times a year (May, September, and December) in a special ceremony. The two rocks in the ocean, less than 700 meters offshore, are eternally bound with a thick ceremonial rope. The larger rock, said to be male, has a small torii at its peak. This iconic spot is recognized as one of Japan’s 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

At dawn during the summer, the sun appears to rise between the two rocks. Mount Fuji is visible in the distance. At low tide, the rocks are not separated by water. Photographers are advised to visit during high tide when the rocks are actually separated by water. During the month before and after the summer solstice, it is possible to snap photos of the sun appearing to rise between the two rocks. On clear mornings in winter, you can see Mt. Fuji in the distance.

Okitama Shrine is dedicated to Sarutahiko Ōkami and imperial food goddess Ukanomitama. There are numerous statues of frogs around the shrine. The shrine and the two rocks are near the Grand Shrine of Ise, the most important location of purification in Shinto.

The place is actually not crowded...but visiting Mie Prefecture can be tricky due to its countryside locale. The rocks are a 15 minute walk from JR Futaminoura Station, but of course getting here by train can be quite tiring for foreigners unfamiliar in Japan. For me, I just took my private driver and space wagon, but the road journey is long. Photographing the rocks are easy but you got to be careful when you put your camera on a tripod because the waves often come crashing in so it's easy for you and your camera equipment to get wet.

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