Located in the sea off Futami in Mie prefecture are a couple of small rocky sea stacks: they are known as Meoto Iwa or the Married Couple Rocks. These rocks are seen as a representation of the union of the creators of the kami, the spirits worshiped in Shinto religion. The two stones are identified as Izanagi (husband) and Izanami (wife). Their union as a couple is very significant and divine to Shintoism, as they are the ones that created all the spirits of the world.
The larger rock is considered to be the husband and is 9 meters tall while the other rock represents the wife and is 3 meters tall. To symbolize the union of the deities, a thick rope known as a ‘shimenawa’ is braided in-between them. The rope is 35 meters long and 10 centimeters in diameter. It is believed to make anything it encloses sacred and also acts as a ward against evil. It is placed between the rocks during special ceremonies multiple times a year in May, September, and December. The rope weighs 40 kilograms, and it takes a lot of people working together to get it up.
People come to this shrine to pray for a strong and lasting marriage, just like the one the deities have. You will also see small frog sculptures around the shrine, these are donated by people who are praying for the safe return of someone they love.
At the top of the larger rock stands a small torii, which is a traditional Japanese gate commonly found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine. It has a special meaning as it serves as a mark of transition from the earthly to the sacred. It plays a role in the worshiping of a sacred stone in the nearby Futami-Okitama Shrine.
Meoto Iwa is especially popular for its beautiful sunrise, particularly during the summer season. If you go there early in the morning you will be able to catch the sun rising between the two rocks. Other people visit the place during high tide, which is the time when the rocks are visibly separated by water.
Go grab the chance to see this pair of rocks if you happen to be near Ise City. You may be lucky enough to catch an impressive sunrise and worship the Shinto spirits at the same time!