Kameishi (Turtle Rock in Ise-jingu Shrine Geku [the outer shrine]) (亀石)

A rock in the precincts of Ise-jingu Shrine Geku. According to legend, the rock, which was used as the entrance of Ama-no-Iwato in Mt. Takakura, was carried to the shrine.

A turtle-shaped relic in Kawahara, Asuka Village, Nara Prefecture. Because this huge granite with 3.6 meters in length, 2.1 meters in width, and 1.8 meters in height has a turtle-like carving on it, it is called by this name. Its humorous face has made itself a symbol of sightseeing in Asuka Village. Here we will describe the latter.

Time of Construction and Its Purpose

When and why it was made is a mystery; any theories, such as a marker of one of the four corners of the Kawahara-ji Temple's territory, a relic related to a kofun (tumulus) including Saruishi (Stone Monkey), or an unfinished product in the process of making a griffin statue in the era of Emperor Saimei, don't draw a conclusion.


Although it is called Kameishi, some people think it has a feature of a frog rather than a turtle because of the triangle shaped face and eyes protruding upward. Because the upper part remains a natural stone, while the lower part alone is processed, Nara National Cultural Properties Research Institute introduced in their report a theory suggesting a topsy-turvy state, i.e., the present bottom should have been intended for the top, which is not strongly supported.

It is unknown that traces of stone arrows seen in the lower part were made in its earliest days, or in later years when the rock was tried to be broken. If they are traces made at the beginning, it proves that Kameishi is an unfinished product, or if it was broken in later years, the original stone might be much taller than the present one.


Legend says that when the area around Nara Basin was a lake, in a battle between the snakes in Taima on the opposite shore and the catfish in Kawahara, sucked the water by Taima caused Kawahara area to be dried up and all the turtle in the lake to be killed. It is said that villagers who pitied the turtles built 'Kameishi' for the repose of their souls.

They say Kameishi formerly faced north and then east. Now it faces southeast, and legend says that if it faces west and stares at Taima, Nara Basin would be a sea of mud.

[Original Japanese]