Spiritual Landscape
Wedded Rocks "Meotoiwa" - Origins of the worship of paired rocks. 

The most famous pair of wedded rocks in Japan are those at “Futamiura” in Ise Bay, Mie Prefecture. According to the legends of Futami Okitama shrine (founded in the early 8th century), the rocks were worshipped 2,000 years ago as “torii of the sea,” with the purpose of venerating a sacred stone below the surface of the distant ocean glimpsed between them. 

The worship of paired rocks can be traced to the days of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki (The oldest and second-oldest Japanese written works, composed in the early 8th century), and the Tenson Korin. The Tenson Korin, which details the heavenly descent of the sun-goddess Amaterasu’s grandson, Ninigi, is the mythologized tale of the arrival on the Japanese archipelago of the king of the Wajin people from the ancient land of Tsushima. 

The practice of worshiping paired rocks may have originated because the king likened a pair of rocks where he landed in Fukuoka, Kyushu, to his native land of Tsushima, and therefore deemed them sacred, making pilgrimages to them. 

Later, the capital was transferred to the Kinki region, and the locus of paired rock worship was transferred east as well, most likely to the wedded rocks at Futamiura, Ise. Some therefore believe that the worship of paired rocks in Japan originated at the wedded rocks in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, in northern Kyushu. I find this theory extremely compelling, especially given the excavation in 1998 of the three sacred Imperial Regalia of Japan from Fukuoka’s Yoshitake-takagi.

The paired rocks at Chikuzen Futamiura in Itoshima are dedicated to Izanagi and Izanami, the married deities of Japan’s creation myth. It is not difficult to imagine that this is how the practice of calling paired rocks “wedded rocks” originated. Whether or not that is the case, it remains true that wedded rocks do not merely symbolize the bonds of love, but are also deeply connected to the origins of Japan. 

                                                                                                                                              -Eriko Kaniwa

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