Looking for love all the way out here?

I cannot stress enough what a catchphrase En-musubi is around here. Because the notion of it permeates so much of the culture around here I have written a handful of entries referencing it in the past, but in a nutshell, the 縁 (En) in 縁結び is a tie of fate, or a spiritual bond. 結び (musubi) is a conjugation of the verb 結ぶ (musubu), which refers to tying things together or making bonds. (As a side note, the character 結 is fittingly part of the word for marriage: 結婚).

Why is this region so big on En-musubi? Because all 8 million gods in Japan gather at Izumo Taisha to discuss whose En their going to bind with whose and how. This means people come to Izumo Taisha and many other shrines in the region (such as Yaegaki Jinja) to pray for new En. This can be anything, such as binds of fate with a new child, having good friends and teachers come into your life, or even one’s ties with nature.

Most simply and popularly, however, it is understood at divine matchmaking. En-musubi is very closely associated with romantic love and finding one’s soulmate.

References to En-musubi show up in many ways throughout daily life, including in the culinary world. En-musubi is often symbolized by red and white cords tied together, as the 紅白 (kouhaku; red and white) color combination is considered quite felicitous. Hence, red and white mochi (rice cakes) are En-musubi rice cakes (remember En-musubi Zenzai?). Today I had a speciality Izumo Taisha souvenir, “fate-binding mochi.”

These are a very soft kind of mochi called “gyuuhi” (求肥). If there were a sound effect for how it stretches so smoothly, it would probably be “gyuuuuu.” The walnuts included in these add a nice defining point to the texture!

There are also a handful of examples throughout Japan of romantic En in nature, such as the married camellia trees at Yaegaki Jinja, but more commonly it’s a pair of large boulders near each other that look like they could be a married couple. Hence, these “husband-and-wife” rocks are bound by shimenawa ropes to signify that it is a place of divine union.

Mihonoseki, a part of Matsue that makes up the eastern stretch of the Shimane Peninsula, is home to one such pair of happily-ever-after wedded crags.

Read about Sakaiminato City and Daikonshima (Radish Island–or should we say Peony Island?) on other posts.

Along the seaside highway from Matsue or Sakaiminato towards the famous head Ebisu shrine Miho Jinja at the harbor or to the lighthouse, you’ll spot two rocks just off shore that are tied together both spiritually and literally.

Apparently it’s a good fishing spot, if you’re willing to get your feet a little wet heading out to the female rock. Speaking of male and female, the name of this spot is pronounced like most of the other husband-and-wife rocks as Meoto-iwa (typically written 夫婦岩), but it is literally written with the characters man-woman-rocks(男女岩). When I approached with a Japanese friend, she said, “Huh? Aren’t those kanji the other way around?”

I guess I hadn’t even thought about it, but yes, 女 should say me and 男 should say oto if you want to go by strict kanji rules. Then again, the rules don’t really apply very well to proper nouns.

Advertisements