Philosopher’s Path and the road to Ginkaku-ji

On Thursday afternoon (I am skipping around a bit in this recap of our travels last week), Aardvark and I spent a lovely afternoon picnicking on the Tetsugaku-no-michi, or Path of Philosophy, in Kyoto. We were supposed to meet up with Don’s class, but it turned out we were in front of them, while we all (Don, his class, Aardvark & me) thought we were behind them, so we enjoyed the path as a bit of a girls’ afternoon. I have fond memories of walking this path with Don five years ago, so it was nice to share it with Aardvark this time – we did not mind not being part of a 20+ person tour group, as we would be with the students (although Don’s commentary is always both insightful and hilarious, when we do get to eavesdrop on him tour-guiding the students). This place, however, really is more a place to quietly amble and enjoy the scenery.

It is called the Philosopher’s Path, apparently, because famous Japanese 20th c. philosopher and Kyoto University Nishido Kitaro apparently used to stroll it daily as a form of walking meditation. (Thank you, Wikipedia, for that nugget).

I can see why. It is a lovely walk along a little stream, flowing from Ginkaku-ji, the famous Silver Temple, to Nanzen-ji. Little shops, cafes, and art galleries, as well as the entrances to some stunning Buddhist temples, line the path, and it feels quite intimate and bohemian. In the springtime, the trees along the path explode with pink cherry blossoms and it is apparently one of the best places to view the cherry blossoms in Japan. I don’t know this from experience, though – all my months in Japan have been in the autumn. In autumn, of course, Kyoto is known for its stunning, fire-like display of autumn leaf colors, but I am also apparently always too early for those! It’s been so hot this autumn the leaves have not yet begun to change. We’ll just have to go back later this trip…

In 2011, we stopped in at pretty much every temple along the way, and I really loved some of them. This time, however, Aardvark was templed-out, so instead she and I popped into little shops selling local wares, like washi-paper notebooks, bowls, and plates; paper parasols; and (Aardvark’s particular window-shopping favorite) unique soft serve ice cream flavors.

Yes, that’s right: Aardvark even cracks herself up with the 3-fingered bunny-ears gesture.


A little statue of Jizo, a Buddhist deity thought to be the guardian of children, sitting on a bench outside a woodcarver’s workshop. Aardvark loves Jizo statues as much as I do, it turns out.


On the walk from the Philosopher’s Path to Ginkaku-ji, Aardvark requested photos of her posing with many of the characters we found along the way. She loved the Maneki-Neko (lucky cat talisman – you’ve probably seen them waving their paws in restaurants or shops in the US too) so much I practically had to drag her away: she did not want to let go of the big bear hug she was giving it. After we finally met up with Don and the students, she dragged him to the stuffed cat and made him pose with it too (“Because you and I both LOVE kitties, Dada!” she likes to tell him frequently.)

Photos from Ginkaku-ji are on Don’s camera. Ugh. It was so crowded though, we were literally herded through a set route at a very fast pace, sandwiched between middle school tour groups, you couldn’t even really take pictures without getting swept up and hurried along in the sea of tourists. I am pretty sure it was stunning, but it was all too fast to appreciate. (I was spoiled after my previous solitary mornings at Ryoanji and Shisendo, but more on that later!) So I am not especially motivated to get those photos. I’ll just enjoy the memories of the slow paced, delightful walk up the Philosopher’s Path.


4 thoughts on “Philosopher’s Path and the road to Ginkaku-ji

    1. Thank you! I felt silly packing clothes that would only be appropriate for part of our trip, but it’s not like I could save them for next year, either, since she’ll be too big. So she’s just gotten lots of wear out of them this month – and you know I love Halloween clothes all October 😉

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