[Hidden Wonders of Japan] Secrets of Monet's Pond at Nemichi Shrine
While algorithms and complex formulas may have a place in the art scene, Monet's Pond reminds us that there's nothing quite like seeing it in person.
The more I reflect, the more challenging it becomes to put into words the incredible impact of my visit to Monet's Pond in Gifu.
Visiting the pond is like stepping into a living masterpiece, a stunning work of art that truly exceeds expectations. It's difficult to express the feeling of being surrounded by such natural beauty, but suffice it to say that it is a truly unforgettable experience.
As the years go by, we are becoming more and more reliant on digital technology. We use it to fulfil our desires, to complete our chores, and more so, to satisfy our sanity.
Art, in particular, has drastically transformed with the progress of technology such as augmented or virtual reality. Digital collectables such as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have made it possible for art aficionados to become collectors or curators themselves.
While algorithms and complex formulas may have a place in the art scene, Monet's Pond reminds us that there's nothing quite like seeing it in person. The awe-inspiring beauty of nature can captivate our senses and leave us speechless.
Art of Nature
Imagine standing in the middle of a breathtaking artwork, feeling the warm sun rays gently caressing your skin, the scent of cedar trees filling your nose with each breath, and the soft rustle of leaves in the gentle wind.
Your eyes take in a real-life canvas, a masterpiece of vivid colors and intricate details. Each brushstroke is carefully crafted to create a stunning visual feast. As you listen to the tranquil sounds of the water and the birds, you feel a sense of peace and awe, fully immersed in this sensory wonderland.
Listening to the rustling of water lilies as the koi swim amongst them, you inhale the crisp cool air and smell the sweet fragrance of the flora. You even pinch your cheeks just to confirm that everything you are sensing is genuine.
Slowly, as you continue to immerse yourself in front of a living, breathing work of art, you ponder, "I've seen this somewhere before."
Serenity in a Scene
Officially named, "Namonaki-Ike", meaning "the pond with no name," it is located within the Nemichi Shrine premises in Itadori, Seki City, Gifu Prefecture.
The water in Namonaki-Ike is incredibly transparent, allowing it to reflect the surrounding greenery in stunning detail.
As carp gracefully swim among the water lilies, the scene bears a striking resemblance to the famous "Water Lilies" series of paintings by the French impressionist Claude Monet.
It's no wonder that the beloved destination for visitors to Gifu Prefecture has come to be known as "Monet's Pond."
Every first day of the month, a special ceremony celebrating nature is held at the shrine. Starting at 9 in the morning, visitors can witness this ritual and submerge themselves in the peaceful atmosphere of the shrine.
To mark the occasion, a festive seal stamp (御朱印 go-shuin) is available exclusively to those who visit in the morning. There is a fee of ¥300. During my visit, I was delighted to receive a sasabune maki (笹舟巻き), a specialty of Nemichi Shrine, as a gift from the shrine staff. (A sasabune maki is a type of chimaki or wrapped rice roll.) With such a warm welcome, I knew it was going to be a wonderful day.
Secret Source of Monet's Pond
Monet's Pond is a hidden gem in every sense of the word. Its purpose is not to be a tourist attraction. Instead, it is intended to be an irrigation reservoir. The size of the pond itself is very humble ー hardly larger than a train carriage (20 meters).
Even to this day, there's still only around 120,000 mentions of the hashtag, Monet's Pond in Japanese (#モネの池) on Instagram. In contrast, the popular and well traveled Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, has over 1million mentions in related hashtags.
The stain free, still waters are the biggest draw of this solitary pond. Nearby Mt Koga, the source of the pond's spring water, is the key to its mystical mirror-like surface. Mt Koga itself is composed primarily of rhyolite, a type of volcanic rock known as "ryumongan" (流紋岩) in Japanese.
This geological feature is thought to be the reason for the remarkably clear quality of the spring water that flows from the mountain. Due to the lack of essential nutrients for microbial life in the rhyolite, the water remains exceptionally pure and transparent. So much so, in fact, that even slight variations in sunlight can affect its color.
When I first approached the pond, some of the photos I took captured its distinct greenish-turquoise color. However, as the clouds rolled in and the angle of the sunlight changed, the hues of the pond began to shift. Many of my later photos revealed a cool lavender that added a unique and unexpected element to the pond's immaculate appeal.
The pond offers a range of natural wonders that vary depending on the season. From late May to late October, the pond comes alive with blooming water lilies, which are particularly impressive from mid-June to mid-July. These flowers typically open when the temperature reaches 25° Celsius, usually around 11:30 AM.
In addition to the white water lilies that fill the pond throughout the warmer months, you can also spot fresh green leaves from mid-April to late November and colored leaves (red, yellow, etc.) from late December to late July. From mid-April to late July, the pond is particularly colorful, with a mix of fresh green and older red/orange leaves.
Finally, the surrounding Japanese maple trees put on a stunning display of autumn colors from mid-November to early December, with reflections of their foliage visible on the water's surface.
Keep your eyes peeled for a carp with a heart-shaped pattern at the pond. This one is said to bring happiness in love. In Japanese, the word for carp is "koi," (鯉) which is a homophone for "love." (恋, koi.) Spotting this special carp is not only a treat for the eyes, but also a symbol of good luck for love and relationships.
For More Information and Other Links
Check out the Itadori Flower Park (in Japanese),
Find daily Pictures of the Pond by Itadari Flower Park (in Japanese), and
Learn More at the Seki City Information Page (some multilingual information.)
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Author: Galileo Ferrari
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