In the Shinto tradition—which is an ancient Japanese belief system—the practice of iwakura venerates sacred stones that are thought to be inhabited by Shinto gods. The two rocks of Meoto Iwa—otherwise known as the Wedded Rocks—honor the gods Izanagi and Izanami, who Shinto devotees believe created the island of Japan. The larger rock represents the husband (Izanagi) and the smaller rock represents the wife (Izanami).
The rocks of Meoto Iwa are bound by a shimenawa which is a ceremonial rope made of rice straw that repels evil spirits and signals that an area is sacred. Wind and water cause the shimenawa to steadily degrade, so the massive rope—which weighs over one ton— is replaced in a Shinto ceremony three times a year. The tall rock that represents Izanagi features a small gate known as a torii which marks the boundary between the ordinary world and the sacred world in the Shinto tradition.
At the height of summer, the sun appears exactly between the rocks of Meoto Iwa. Near the winter solstice, Meoto Iwa perfectly frames the moon as it rises. Young couples often travel to Meoto Iwa at sunrise to pray for a lasting union. On a clear day, visitors may even catch a glimpse of stately Mount Fuji in the distance.
The Futami Okitama Shrine is located next to Meoto Iwa. The Futami Okitama Shrine venerates multiple Shinto deities, including Izanagi and Izanami. The shrine is very popular because it features numerous frog statues. In the Shinto tradition, frogs are considered a good luck charm that promote the safe return of people and objects. A small shop near the Futami Okitama Shrine sells frog-shaped good luck charms that supposedly aid forgetful people who are forever misplacing their keys, cell phones, and wallets.
The Ryugu Shrine—which is dedicated to the Japanese sea dragon Ryujin—is located near Meoto Iwa and the Futami Okitamo Shrine. Ryujin’s red and white coral palace beneath the sea is reflected in the shrine’s red and white exterior. Visitors pray for good fortune, joyous, long-lasting unions, and bountiful fishing…