Sierra Club Home Page   Environmental Update  
chapter button
Explore, enjoy and protect the planet
Click here to visit the Member Center.         
Take Action
Get Outdoors
Join or Give
Inside Sierra Club
Press Room
Politics & Issues
Sierra Magazine
Sierra Club Books
Apparel and Other Merchandise
Contact Us

Join the Sierra ClubWhy become a member?

  Sierra Magazine
  January/February 2008
Table of Contents
Can They Get Along?
Keep Your Eye on the Globe
Big Debate Over the Big Box
Chilling Lessons
It's Global Warming, Stupid!
Power Hungry
Editor's Note
Ways & Means
One Small Step
Lay of the Land
Good Going
The Green Life
Hey Mr. Green
Sierra Club Bulletin
Sierra Archives
About Sierra
Internships at Sierra
Advertising Information
Current Advertisers

Sierra Magazine
click here to print this article! click here to tell a friend
Good Going
January/February 2008

The sea off Japan's southeastern coast harbors the Meoto-Iwa, or "Wedded Rocks"--and a secret.

"Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things."
—Thomas Merton

THE CONDUCTOR ANNOUNCED OUR ARRIVAL in crisp Japanese, and shouldering my backpack, I stepped into Futamiura Station. A light mist carried a whiff of soothing salt air, but my mind remained restless. Concerns about the rest of the trip and images my camera had already captured rippled through my consciousness, clamoring for attention.

I was traveling through Japan to photograph its wild and sacred places, on a quest to document serenity. I wanted to produce imagery that allowed viewers, even in the midst of hectic schedules and daily pressures, to pause and find their own sense of calm. But as I walked past shops and hotels, surrounded by hurried people, I began to doubt this stretch of well-developed shoreline in Ise-Shima National Park would afford me much tranquility.

I spotted a tall torii, or gate. The bright red pillars, topped by two crossbars, mark the entrance to the Meoto-Iwa Shinto shrine, where locals, tourists, and spiritual pilgrims come to reflect, pray, and view two elephantine boulders that protrude from the water.

According to Shinto legend, the "Wedded Rocks" are known as Izanagi and Izanami, the primal couple who gave birth to the Japanese islands. United by thick braided ropes called shimenawa, they reflect a permanent embrace between man, woman, and Earth. The shimenawa denote sacred space; Shinto monks replace the ropes, which weigh more than a ton, several times a year.

For the next three hours, I sat at the edge of Ise Bay and gazed at the rocks and the shifting sea, lulled by the waves at my feet. Boats passed through the harbor's swirling fog. As the sun's fading light warmed the scene, the din from town slowly evaporated. A stillness unfolded in me. I felt connected.

Through most of the day, Izanagi and Izanami appear independent, as if the shimenawa were all that connect them. But each receding tide reveals their true nature. Their separateness is an illusion. The two rocks are one, anchored by their fusion with the earth, which binds us all. —Jeffrey A. Davis

Photo by Jeffrey A. Davis; used with permission.

Up to Top

HOME | Email Signup | About Us | Contact Us | Terms of Use | © 2008 Sierra Club