Friday, August 3, 2012

Futami Okitama Jinja  ("Husband and Wife Rocks")                         C
Meoto Iwa, "husband and wife rocks" or Futami Okitama Jinja
The Meoto Iwa of Futami Okitama Jinja
(photo courtesy of the shrine)
Date founded: Founded in 1910.
Address: 575 Futami-choe, Ise-shi, Mie 519-0602
Tel/Information: 0596-43-2020. Open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. A map of the area in English is available for free.
How to get there: From Ise-shi Station take the JR Sangu Line to Futaminoura Station. Exit the station and follow the road that passes under the torii opposite the station for about 25 minutes. Alternatively, take the bus from the Ise Naiku directly to Futamigaura (about 25 minutes). Walk around the left-hand side of the gift shop to the back entrance of the shrine.
Enshrined kami: Sarutahiko no okami, Uganomitama no okami (Ama no iwato), and Watatsumi no okami (in the Ryugusha).
Prayers offered: For guidance in opening new roads, the well-being of the family, safety on the roadways, and a good marriage.
Best times to go: May to July when the sun rises between the rocks, or between November and January for the moon rise. Another good time is when the ropes hanging from the meoto iwa are changed on 5 May, 5 September and the second or third weekend in December.

While you're here, any readers who are interested in having a kamidana of their own, or would like to send one to a friend or family member, please check out this post:
Futami Okitama Jinja
The shrine at the base of the mountain outcrop
(remaining photos copyright Joseph Cali)
Important physical features: The most important or, in any case, the most well-known physical feature of the shrine is located a short distance offshore. The meoto iwa (“husband and wife rocks,” or “wedded rocks”) are two large rocks, said to be husband and wife. The larger o-iwa (male) rock is about 30 feet tall by 131 feet around, while the smaller me-iwa (female) rock is about 13 feet tall by 30 feet around. The distance between the rocks is also about 30 feet at the base. Thick straw ropes (shimenawa) hung around the peaks of both rocks creates a link between the two and an iconography which has made them immediately recognizable throughout the world. The larger rock also has a small torii at the peak. Based on an old print in the possession of the shrine, the ropes were hung at least as early as the fourteenth century. But the name meoto is from the Meiji period. Prior to that time it was called takeishizaki. In ancient times, there was only a very small shrine on the beach that was replaced by larger shrines over time. The current main shrine is made of concrete and stands on the rocky shore facing the meoto. Waves and storms routinely wash over the entire shrine, as the buildings are located at the outermost tip of a mountain outcrop. Though probably the best known, this is only one instance of natural features distinguished by being encircled with shimenawa. The mark of spiritual distinction is frequently seen around stones, trees, and across waterfalls. 

Futami Okitama Jinja
A print from the fourteenth century shows the rocks
connected by a shimenawa
Important spiritual features: The main deity enshrined here is Sarutahiko no okami, who guided Ninigi no mikoto in his descent from heaven to Mount Takachiho in Kyushu. Sarutahiko no okami is thought by many scholars to be originally a local kami of the region around Ise. Uganomitama no okami, also enshrined in the honden, is a deity of grain and especially associated with rice. Watasumi no okami is a kami of the sea who is considered native to this area and enshrined in Ryugusha, a small shrine near the rear entrance to Futami. Originally Futami Okitama Jinja was formed by combining separate shrines called Sangu (enshrining Uganomitama) and a shrine from Taikoji temple (enshrining Sarutahiko). Taikoji is located a few miles away. In addition, Ama no Iwaya shrine near the main entrance to Futami enshrines a kami of stone and is also a representation of Ama no Iwato, the cave where Amaterasu hid herself away.
            While it goes without saying that the main focus today is on the meoto iwa and marriage, this is also a historic starting point for the trek to Ise Jingu. At least as early as the twelfth century pilgrims making their way over one of the many land routes began the custom of purifying themselves in the waters here before going to Ise. Worshipers today come to ritually clean themselves with saltwater on certain auspicious days. Also, people participating in the ceremony for taking building materials to Ise (okihiki) for its shikinen sengu rebuilding, every twenty years, start their journey here with special cleaning and purification rites. The saltwater purification, known as hamasangu, is still conducted today. In other words the shrine and the meoto iwa have a strong historical and spiritual connection to Ise, to Sarutahiko, and to the sea. For more details on Sarutahiko, Watasumi and other aspects of Ise faith, please see my book, Shinto Shrines; The Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion, and other pages on this blog.

meoto iwa and frog
The Meoto Iwa and one of the shrine's
many frog images.
Description: A large torii stands opposite Futaminoura station, marking the entrance to the long shopping street that leads to the shrine. The shrine itself is not visible until one walks along the sando that wraps around the shore to the opposite side of a rocky outcrop. Futami Okitama Jinja is the best place from which to view the meoto iwa and pray while facing it. Since ancient times many people have made the trip to view the sunrise between these rocks. It is also best to view the rocks at high tide. At low tide the rocks no longer appear separated by water (though a strip of land connected to the mainland makes it possible to walk up close to them at that time). The rocks are also said to be a kind of torii gate for the larger formation called okimitama shinseki, about half a mile in diameter and located under water about half a mile off shore.
             The kami Sarutahiko is considered by some scholars to come from the toyoko no kuni or the ne no kuni, both believed to be lands across or under the sea, and the okimitama is said to be the place he first alighted in this world. Sarutahiko is also thought by some to be a solar deity. Okitama was considered the gate to the palace of the sea god and a kind of yorishiro, or place for the sun kami to enter the world. Scholars have speculated that the original location of Ise Jingu was near the beach and that Okitama served as a yorishiro for Amaterasu’s descent, when the first saigu (shrine princess) Yamatohime no mikoto came looking for a place to enshrine the sacred mirror. It is recorded that she found the land here so beautiful that she had to “look back twice” (futami ura).
            Three times a year, local villagers remake the five four-inch diameter, 115-foot-long ropes weighing ninety pounds apiece that connect and encircle the rocks. Futami Okitama Jinja is also known for its myriad sculptures of frogs. Legend has it that in ancient times, a frog was offered to calm the soul of a big snake that lived in Futami Bay. The shrine, however, considers the frog to be a familiar of Sarutahiko no okami. In addition, the pronunciation of frog (kaeru) is the same as that for “to return” or “come back.” As a result, the shrine grounds are filled with frogs, donated by worshipers praying for the safe return of a loved one or for the “return” of money.

Festival: Oshimenawa Harikae Shinji (Shimenawa Renewal Festival), 5 May, 5 September, and the second or third weekend in December (determined by the height of the tide). In this ceremony, the shimenawa that hang from the meoto iwa are renewed.


  1. I went to here and your blog was the only place I fouund informaiton on the frogs that wereat the shirne. Thanks

    1. You are very welcome! I had the same problem visiting shrines (no information, conflicting information, etc.) which is why I decided to write the book and the blog. Thanks for your comment.