Japanese Gardens and lurking danger.
National Cultural Day was on the 3rd of November, and Jen was given the day off. That’s a full on excuse to go see cool stuff, so after a quick scan of the handy English-version of the Sights of Nagoya City Map we had our route, and were off.
We did stop the Toganji Temple & the Atsuta Shrine on our way to the Shirotori Gardens (白鳥庭園 – Swan Gardens) However, I’ll refrain from commenting too much on the Shrines, Temples and Buddhist / Shinto religions here till I know more about them. Besides, keeping things short and sweet sound like a good idea, and I’d rather not go too into depth about everything and it gives me an excuse to write later on too. ;D
The Gardens are in a traditional Japanese Style, lots of water, lots of carefully pruned plants, very serene feel to it all. From the official English map that we were handed, here’s what was written in it:
“The Shirotori Garden is a Japanese-style garden with a path running along the banks of streams and ponds. The area of the garden is approximately 3.7 hectares.
The mound at the southwestern corner of the garden represents Mt. Ontake and the stream originating from the mound, the Kiso River.
In the center of the garden lies the Seiu-tei, a couple of tea ceremony rooms.
Seiu-tei was designed after the image of a swan, or “shirotori”, flying down to rest its wings.
Seiu-tei was designed after the depiction of the flow of the tides, one of the traditional aspects of Japanese gardens. The ebb and flow effect is achieved by the use of modern technology.”
Fantastic … so what does it all mean?
Oh. That’s pretty darn cool.
The garden starts at the top of Mt. Ontake and a waterfall, and then flows down in a very beautiful fashion towards the ponds. Flowing water, sounds, plants everywhere, if we had more than just an hour I could’ve just sat and listened – the gardens close at 4:30pm and we didn’t arrive till 3:30!
As the water flows down stream it bends, twists, turns. Losing altitude, but never flowing so fast to cause too much of a ruckus. If you were to accidentally fall in, perhaps become a little unbalanced while stepping over the gapped-stones as you cross the river a couple times, you would have no danger in being whisked down stream. Which is a good thing, especially when you consider the guardians of the water here.
Jen looks at ease here, but that’s because she knows she is safe from the dangers that lay ahead.
As you continue down stream, you get to the ponds and the tea rooms. The photos do not really do it justice, but hopefully these can convey some of the scale, and beauty of the gardens.
As we crossed one of the bridges, it appeared that the waters were inhabited. Very few ducks were present, which considering how pristine the water is, seemed rather odd. A long ibis waded in the shallows, as if it knew something, knew not to get too close to the deeper water. As we approached the waters’ edge, it was then that the guardians of the ponds, the fabled Koi of Shirotori first appeared.
They look harmless, don’t they? No teeth in their mouths, just a few of them gently swimming around. They do this on purpose. As if they know our own tendencies, and how we let down our guard when it comes to small numbers of normally-docile animals. They had us both fooled. Jen wasn’t yet aware of the danger she was in.
Not heeding that foreboding ambiance in the air (if life had a soundtrack, it would have been very fast, very soft playing violins followed by periods of silence. You know how it sounds.) we left the bank where we saw the “friendly” koi, and continued on across a bridge. We looked across the water, and saw that for 50¥ you could buy a cup of food just like the locals were doing. Not a bad idea, it looked like they were having fun!
Jen went first, they started swimming up to her as we kneeled and sat along the steps. Laughter filled the air as the koi began to swim towards their new source of food. Just a few at first, trickling in, a steady stream if you pardon the pun.
It was at that moment, when your guard was down, when you were least expecting it that something happened. You could see it in their eyes. I pulled Jen back as they massed to critical levels, we heard a child scream. The following picture might or might not churn your stomach – a child might, or might not have JUST been devoured by Koi right before this photo was taken.
I couldn’t believe it, neither could Jen. Such harmless creatures – they don’t even have teeth! The water ran clear where the child might-or-might-not-have fallen in, obviously a testament to their bloodthirsty nature. Not a drop was spared.
I decided to take it upon myself to subdue these creatures. No more children would be swallowed up, not on my watch.
Oh … the humanity of it all.
Just look at their voraciousness! Their clear determination to consume everything around them! Like vegetarian pirhana – not a single food pellet survived!!! The sheer chaos of ferocity was enough to make any Bond villain clench his hands and mutter, “Good … good.”
They amassed in such numbers, nary a care for their fellow fish, swimming on top of each other, just waiting for a finger to come too close. That’s when they would get you. I can’t read the signs, but I’m sure each one around the area warned of the imminent danger I was in. I would defy them, I would show them that I am not afraid of these whiskered ichthyoids! (It wasn’t until after I saw the above picture that I realized how close I was to losing my toes. I must be more careful!)
Having admitted defeat, having met their match and been rendered as the lesser of beasts, and myself having been rendered free of any remaining fish food, the Koi retreated back into the murky depths of the 2 foot deep clear water. Jen continued to throw out food to the odd one here or there, even attempting to lure ducks into a watery grave, but the Koi almost seemed distracted – wondering perhaps, what menace of a man did they just themselves survive.
It’s a good thing I didn’t have a net.
The garden tour continued, and even with the fear of a hydrologically induced death nearby, spirits were high at the sheer wonder of this garden.
The time we had there expired, and it was off to some night-time walking of the city. We will be back,. though The koi must be tamed. That, and we really really liked it here. 🙂
Sending love from Japan –