Impressionist painter Claude Monet left behind an impressive body of work. But perhaps nothing resonates more than his acclaimed Water Lily series, which was inspired by the pond at his home in Giverny. The pond’s landscaping has become a symbol of tranquility and while you can still visit it in France today, did you know there’s a look-alike across the globe? Given the influence of Japanese culture on Impressionism, it should come as no surprise that there’s a nearly identical version in Japan.
Located in the Gifu Prefecture outside of Seki City, the pond sits at the base of a hill below a fairly small, unremarkable Shinto shrine. In fact, the picturesque pond was nameless until a few years ago, when photos of it surfaced online and people remarked on its similarity to the pond from Monet’s Water Lily paintings. It was then that it became known as Monet’s Pond and people now flock to the area to admire its beauty.
The pond is particularly noted for its crystal clear water, which is due to the fact that its spring water has no nutrients. The spring’s source, Mt. Koga, is made from a volcanic rock called rhyolite that lacks nutrients for microbes to form. The water’s transparency adds to its beauty, as it appears to change color under even small changes in light.
Filled with carp, the pond transforms with the seasons and is surrounded by Japanese maple trees that reflect in the water. There’s even a small bridge, just like in Giverny. While the pond is beautiful at any time of year, it’s especially picturesque in the early summer when the lilies bloom and in late fall when the maple leaves change color.
Interestingly, the pond wasn’t built with beauty in mind. It originally functioned as an irrigation reservoir and was only transformed thanks to an enterprising local. Over the years, the pond had become neglected and overrun with vegetation. In the 1990s, the owner of the Itadori Flower Park—which is just next door—decided to do something about it and started cleaning the overgrowth. Eventually, the local council assisted him and began planting water lilies. The carp also come from the community, as they were donated by owners who could no longer care for them.
Now, the formerly anonymous pond in the woods has become a destination in Gifu, with photographers waiting their turn to take pictures from the viewing platform. Somewhere, Monet is surely smiling.