The Meoto Iwa Scam

I never intended to visit Meoto Iwa, but I was conned into going by the Japanese Tourism office. I like to think that I’m a sophisticated traveler who’s not easily scammed. It never occurred to me that I’d be played for a fool by the Japanese, since I consider them to be one of the most honest cultures in the world.

It’s like being tricked by the Pope, never saw it coming!

While day tripping at the incredible Ise Shrines two things happened.

I struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler (from Michigan) and we came across an ad for the Meoto Iwa or the “Married Couple Rocks”. The poster was impressive, it showed two rocks piercing the ocean, joined together by a heavy rope and had what appeared to be a large torii gate ontop of one of the rocks.

Talking to the tourism office, we learned that these two rocks symbolize the union between a man and a woman and that it’s considered good luck for couples to visit the site.

Impressed, my friend and I decided to include a visit to these rocks as part of our day trip. After finishing our exploration of the shrines we headed off to catch a bus to take us to Meoto Iwa. The trip to the site took longer and was harder than anticipated.

I should’ve taken it as a sign to skip this trip.

But ever the optimist, I convinced myself that all would forgotten once we finally got to see this impressive torii gate raised high ontop of these lonely rocks in the sea. Sadly, when we got our first glimpse of the torii gate, we froze in disbelief.

To say we were underwhelmed would be a massive understatement. We both stared at the gate and it literally looked like a lego sized toy perched on a massive rock. Or as my friend quipped, it’s looks like a torii gate for cats.

We both laughed and made fun of the situation, but in reality I felt duped. I felt like the Japanese Tourism office had pulled a fast one on us. The posters made the torii gate look absolutely huge. The problem with pictures is scale. The poster was a closeup of the rocks, with only the sea in the background. With no other structures near the rocks, the size torii gate was amplified. Had I known the truth, I wouldn’t have bothered with the trip.

Was this a case of intentional false advertising? Or was it an example of  a “lost in translation” moment from the Tourism office?

Either way, don’t fall for the Meoto Iwa scam. This is one attraction you can safely skip. Don’t believe me? Checkout my video from the trip.