By: Elizabeth Watson
When planning your trip to Japan, look no further than the beautiful Sado Island (佐渡島). Right off the coast of Niigata, a stunning ferry ride will transport you to a treasure trove of Japanese culture and history. Sado is an amazing destination filled with unique flora, like the bright yellow lilies, and fantastic fauna like the Crescent Ibis, Niigata’s very own mascot. Sado Island is well known for its incredible scenery, the historical gold and silver mines, flavorful salt production, the thunderous beat of the taiko drums, and the unique Oni Daiko dance.
One especially interesting stop on your Sado Island tour should be along the shore of Nanaura Coast, where one will find Meotoiwa (夫婦岩), also known as the “couples rock.” Meotoiwa, two gigantic rocks that stand along the shoreline are an iconic and beloved symbol of Sado. According to the ancient Japanese book “Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters)” (YUKIGUNI Journey, 2021), the rock’s mythology dates back to Japan’s creation story. On the right stands the husband, Izanagi, and on the left the wife, Izanami, both are considered the creator gods of Japan. The wife (on the left) has her hands clasped in prayer, while the husband (on the right) has his hands together in front of him almost as if he’s begging. If you look closely, on the wife rock (on the left) there is a fissure that creates the silhouette of a woman.
The rocks symbolize the union between the two founding gods. The story goes that Izanagi and Izanami created Meotoiwa as their refuge on earth. It is said the gods hid here from the other heavenly god and rested after giving birth to their children; later islands were born from Meotoiwa. The rocks are said to bring good luck in finding romance. Sado islanders believe that if you tie a bamboo string on the sign outside of the roadside restaurant while thinking of new romance, when the string naturally falls off your wish will come true!
Meotoiwa and the rocks surrounding the area are made of volcanic ash and sedimentary rocks that fused together. This type of rock is called Tuff and is often referred to as Green Tuff because of its hue. Green Tuff is typically found on and along the coast of the Sea of Japan and provides fossil-rich evidence of the formation of the Japanese Archipelago, recording its geologic break from the Eurasian Continent millions of years before.
While at Meotoiwa, you can also enjoy a unique cultural experience at the roadside restaurant next to the beach. You can make your own salt! This traditional process dates back hundreds of years. You start by collecting water from the sea with buckets. The salt-water is rich in minerals and has a unique flavor. Next, you’ll carry your bucket across the road to the wooden hut where the salt making process actually takes place. Inside, you’ll immediately feel the temperature increase as you watch the steam rise. The large water baths contain sea water in different stages of the process. After pouring the water into a filtration system to remove sediment and then into one of the larger baths, you move onto creating the fuel. For hundreds of years wood has been used to fuel the fire that heats the water. Step back in time as you chop wood by hand. From water collection to the final delicious product it takes about eight to ten hours. The resulting mineral-rich salt has a unique profile that would add strong flavors to any dish.
Meotoiwa on Sado Island is definitely a must-do experience on your adventure around Japan. In addition to Meotoiwa’s “Couples Rock” – don’t forget to tie your bamboo string and pray for a new romance – a vast vista of stunning scenery awaits! Take a stroll along the beach and see what shapes you can make out in the rocks all around. The Meotoiwa area is also known for “Nekoiwa” or Cat Rock and “Hokakeiwa” or Sailing Rock. There’s so much to do and see on Sado Island. When you visit Sado, you’ll no doubt find paradise refuge here just like Izanami and Izanagi the creator gods.
Takose, Sado, Niigata 952-1645, Japan
YUKIGUNI Journey. (2021, September 16). Sado trip! ⑤ The blessings of SadoMaking the finest rice balls, “Meoto-iwa Sightseeing” | Yukiguni journey. 雪国ジャーニー. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.yukiguni-journey.jp/en/11231/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hello, my name is Elizabeth. I am 25 years old. I am from Michigan, America. I am an English teacher on the JET program. This is my first time in Japan! I love to travel!