Meoto Iwa (Wedded Rocks) off the coast of Ise, Mie Prefecture, Honshu, Japan
© Marco Gaiotti/plainpictur
Sacred stones. Wedded Rocks, Japan
Just off the shore of the city of Ise, in the southern-central region of Japan’s main island, Honshu, two rocks represent a sacred union between a divine couple. Known collectively as Meoto Iwa (Wedded Rocks), these sea stacks represent Izanagi and Izanami, the married brother-and-sister deities who created the islands of Japan and its gods in Japanese mythology. The large rock on the left is said to be the husband, Izanagi – at its peak is a small torii, a symbolic gateway marking the entrance to a Shinto shrine. The smaller rock represents his wife, Izanami.
The smitten sea stacks are joined together in matrimony by a thick rope braided of rice straw called ‘shimenawa,’ which is used as a symbol of purity and protection in the Shinto religion. The sacred rope is replaced in a special ceremony, held three times each year during the months of May, September, and December. The best time to see the rocks is at dawn during summer or twilight in winter, when the sun and moon, respectively, rise between them. If the weather is clear and the gods are on your side, you might even catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji in the distance. But we think it's just as beguiling with heavy snowflakes gently falling all around.