It’s a long walk up the mountain, but they’re worth it.

Claude Monet was well known for his appreciation of the art and aesthetics of Japan. That admiration is mutual, with the French impressionist being one of Japan’s favorite foreign painters, so much so that there’s a beautiful body of water in Tochigi Prefecture that’s become known to locals as “Monet’s Pond,” because it looks like a real-world version of Monet’s Water Lilies series.

Located in the town of Sano, it’s actually one of two “Monet Ponds” in Japan. With the other being further west in Gifu Prefecture, though, the one is Sano is called the Monet Pond of Kanto (east Japan), and on a recent visit to the town, we decided to see it for ourselves.

The pond is located next to the Isoyama Benzaiten shrine, which is no slouch itself in the looks department, as it seems to be sprouting directly from the side of a mountain!

This is thanks to a classical Japanese architectural style called kakezukuri, in which the structure is built on top of a massive lattice-like frame. The most famous example of kakezukuri in Japan is Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple, and so Isoyama Benzaiten is sometimes called “the Kiyomizu of Kanto.”

A long stairway leads up to the shrine, so we stretched out our calves and started climbing it.

Along the way, there are thick groves of bamboo and some statuary.

And when we finally got to the top…

…we were rewarded with beautiful views of the surrounding community.

After a short break to catch our breath while looking out over the farmhouses, fields, and forests, we stopped to toss a coin into the offering box and say a prayer for good luck. The shrine’s main building was built all the way back in the Kamakura period (1185-1333), but Isoyama Benzaiten was founded even earlier, reportedly by samurai lord Fujiwara no Hidesato, and is itself now over 1,000 years old.

From the shrine, it’s just a short walk over to the Monet Pond, which is officially called Izuruhara Benten Ike, or the Izuhara Benten Pond.

▼ Sign for Izuruhara Benten Ike (出流原弁天池)

Benten, also known as Benzaiten, is the goddess of music and the arts, and the beauty of the pond is nothing short of breathtaking.

The water is so crystal-clear that it almost looks like the koi swimming in it are flying, especially when they’re still enough that their fins’ movement isn’t forming ripples on the pond’s surface.

Really, if we ever end up getting reincarnated as fish, we hope we get to spend our days swimming around a pond like this.

Isoyama Benzaiten and Izuruhara Benten Ike are about 20 minutes by taxi from Sano Station. And if you’re looking to further commune with the goddess of art and beauty, don’t forget to stop by the other Benten shrine in Tochigi that issues “beautiful woman certificates.”

Shrine information
Isoyama Benzaiten / 磯山弁財天
Address: Tochigi-ken, Sano-shi, Izuharacho 1117

Photos ©SoraNews24
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