Our next location after leaving Kyoto was to visit Meoto Iwa and Futami Okitama shrine. When planning this trip we had considered heading as far west as Hiroshima. We quickly realised that with only 2 weeks driving in Japan this would be impossible, it may have been a different matter had we been using bullet trains. In an ideal world we would the journey from Kyoto to Meoto Iwa would have been via Nara and Todai-ji to see the giant Buddha. According to online sources it is open everyday but I’m sure it was closed the day we would be in the general area.
The nearest city is Ise and we arrived in the area with a few hours of daylight to spare. Located on the coast of Ise Bay this seems to be a location popular with mainly Japanese tourists rather than overseas visitors. This is perhaps not too surprising as it requires somewhat of a detour for most tourists and is not exactly concentrated with lots for tourists to see.
For those with more time in the area one place that might be worth a visit is Edo Wonderland Ise, known locally as Azuchi Momoyama Bunka Mura. It’s a theme park dedicated to an era when samurai ruled the country.
Another popular tourist location is Ise Grand Shrine, Japan’s most sacred shinto shrine. Approximately 2,000 years old, the shrine is supposed to be a must see for anyone visiting this region of Japan.
Finally if time allows you might also want to visit Mikimoto pearl island which has a museum dedicated to pearl cultivation. Mikimoto Kokichi who was born in nearby Toba in 1858 was the first person to successfully cultivate pearls in 1893.
Meoto Iwa & Futami Okitama shrine
We were able to park right by the sea, less than 5 minutes walk away. We passed Futami Okitama jinja shrine first where a number of Shinto deities are enshrined. Apparently a deeply religious place, it is not commercialised at all. That and the fact that it was peaceful was probably why Ewelina and I enjoyed visiting it. I should also point out that there is no charge to visit but there is a small shop should you want a souvenir. During our visit we noticed a number of frog statues the meaning of which only became clear after we did some research. The frogs are supposed to act like a charm to bring people or things back. The Japanese word for frog is apparently phonetically similar to the verb to return.
Just beyond Futami Okitama shrine you will see Meoto Iwa a short distance out to sea. Meoto Iwa means ‘Married couple rocks’. People try and visit at high tide when the rocks are separated by the sea but connected by rope. We were lucky that it was high tide when we visited. The rocks and the rope have all sorts of significance related to the union between man and woman or husband and wife. The rope is said to weigh over a ton and is replaced three times a year in a special ceremony.
The photo above of Meoto Iwa is actually a long exposure image taken on a tripod. As the waves crash against the rocks they become blurred and ‘milky’ in a long exposure which seems to suit the image more than a photograph taken with a normal shutter speed would.
With less than an hour of daylight left we decided to leave. Having spent the last two nights in a hotel in Kyoto it was time to make our way to our overnight location, another Michi-no-Eki for a night in our campervan.
Due partly to its location this area is not likely to be on most people’s itinerary. If however you are thinking about visiting Meoto Iwa & Futami Okitama shrine or indeed this area in general you might want to visit the following website for more detailed information.