Monet’s Pond: Just as Gorgeous as the Original Paintings (Gifu, Japan)

Over the weekend I decided to re-visit Gifu Prefecture and see if it’s famous water lily pond in Seki was worth the hype.  This originally nameless pond has been nicknamed “Monet’s Pond” (モネの池) by the locals because it closely resembles the Water Lilies art series painted by Claude Monet in the late 1800s.  Depending on the season and the weather, the scenery of the pond can vastly change.  Some online reviews have said that Monet’s Pond is a vibrant place that is a spitting image of the artwork, while others have dismissed it for appearing as murky and overrated.  It’s somewhat humorous to see the variety of scrutiny this place gets (both in English and Japanese).

My favorite review comes from “Kevin B” on Google:

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“It is nice, but professional photograph[s] ruined it for me.  My expectations were too high, don’t trust the pictures on the Internet.” – Kevin B

This could be true of any place, anywhere—don’t trust the pictures on the internet.  Kevin B’s review implies if you set your expectations too high, you will be undoubtedly disappointed.  Especially since the pond is located in a considerably remote location with infrequent transportation.  But as an adventurer, reading that description just made me want to travel here even more so I could see it for myself.

Fortunately I was not disappointed because the photos I captured look complementary to the artwork:

Fun Fact: I didn’t actually look at any of the Water Lilies paintings until after I went to the pond because I didn’t want my expectations to be warped.  I only looked at them for reference in order to accurately write this article.

Here is a gallery of photos that I took.  The pond is quite small in size, but depending on where you stand you can see an entirely different reflection in the water:

I was lucky because I got the chance to see Monet’s Pond in both sunny and cloudy weather in the hour that I was there.  During sunny weather the pond perfectly reflects the clouds in the sky giving it that dream-like oil painting aesthetic.  During cloudy weather it looks a lot darker, but with the floating water lilies it still appears beautiful.  Perhaps in the colder months it looks more bare and devoid of color, thus provoking the negative reviews.  Coming in June gave me the perfect experience though.  I was extremely satisfied with what I saw.

In this video the Koi look like they’re swimming through the clouds:

If you search for pictures of the pond online, you will see mixed results.  Some photos have been purposely edited with filters and textures to look more like the paintings.  However, the photos on the Official Gifu Tourism Website look pretty natural.  I used both my iPhone’s camera and my GoPro so I could closely compare the detail.  I only edited the lighting and shadows slightly in the photos I posted here because the sunlight was already optimal.  It is recommended to come in the summer and fall months for the best viewing but the pond is open year-round.

Even if we can’t trust the internet, one thing we all can agree on is that this cheesecake replica of Monet’s Pond is awesome:

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Monet’s Pond Cheesecake created by an anonymous pastry chef (posted on Grapee).

Not gonna lie, seeing this cake was another huge inspiration for my journey here.  Perhaps Gifu Prefecture will some day replicate this idea and create a cafe with food and souvenirs based on the pond like many other places in Japan.  Until then, enjoy this capitalist-free piece of nature.

Access

From Gifu Station take the N83 bus towards ほらどキウイプラザ行き (Horado Kiwi Plaza) and get off at the last stop.  I was a bit disappointed to see that there were no kiwis here (this is simply a parking lot on the side of a highway).  From the bus stop at the parking lot you will see a small van waiting adjacent to the bus.  The van’s time tables are aligned with the local buses so you can take it for free to Monet’s Pond.  The bus ride takes about 1.5 hours, and the van ride takes 15 mins, so the total travel time is around 1 hour and 45 mins.  Though this is a bit of a journey, the ride only costs 670 yen and the pond has no entrance fee making it one of the cheapest attractions in Gifu.

If you like seeing the country side of Japan and don’t mind riding the bus, then I would recommend this trip to you.  Just be sure to watch the weather and get there early so you have enough time to take pictures and return to the station.  Besides the pond, there’s really not a lot to do in Seki.  There’s a local shrine and a few places to eat, but most of the area is used for farming.  After seeing the pond I went to Nagoya to spend time with my friends because there’s much more to do there.  This was a great escape from reality though.  I was happy to confirm that the pond does indeed resemble the real artwork and is not just a hoax.

If you are interested in seeing more attractions in Gifu Prefecture, please check out my Your Name and Gero Onsen articles!

Yayoi Kusama Exhibit: Plants and I

Earlier this month I decided to visit the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Shinjuku, Japan, due to my fascination with her intricately dotted sculptures and paintings that gained a lot of popularity through social media. The exhibit that I saw was titled I Want You to Look at My Prospects for the Future: Plants and I.

The 5 floor museum consisted of a variety of hand-painted pieces, as well as art books you could browse through on the top floor. There was also a beautiful outdoor exhibit of a giant shimmering pumpkin and fantastic view of the city.

Additionally, there was a dark room you could go in with glowing pumpkins. They reminded me of lanterns because they had a very soft glow:

I found this museum to be quite interesting because before each main exhibit, there was poetry printed on the wall about Kusama’s thoughts and feelings about the artwork. In the first poem which is found at the entrance of the museum, she talks about her strong aspirations for us to understand her art since she infused her soul into this museum, and hope that it leads us to peace:

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When she writes about her obsessions of pumpkins and violets, you can see a stark contrast in her feelings. When she describes her love of pumpkins, she talks about how she “cannot efface the joy of them being my everything” and wishes for us humans to unearth ourselves and discover how we should live our lives in harmony like pumpkins in a pumpkin patch.

However, when she talks violets, you can see their is an evident fear of her losing her voice and becoming older. I interpreted both of these poems to be a metaphor for growth. With her pumpkin display, she wishes for humanity to grow in harmony. With her violet obsession (or fear), she is afraid of losing her youth and growing older. However, both are inevitable things in our mortal lives, and there is a lot that can be learned by accepting growth and change in our lives:

Unfortunately photography was only allowed on the top and bottom floors, but I had a very relaxing time walking through this museum and learning about Kusama’s artistic vision.  The exhibitions at this museum change every few months, but you can see the current exhibitions listed here.  The entrance fee is only 1000 yen, and you must purchase tickets in advance online, but it is well worth it for the experience.  I hope this museum continues its visitors to grow and accept change!