The Philosopher's Path, Kyoto 哲学の道
The Famous Zen Walk of Kyoto
The Philosopher's Path (Tetsugaku no Michi in Japanese) in northeast Kyoto gets its name from a famous philosopher who regularly walked this route for quiet contemplation. This beautiful tree-lined path is now very popular with tourists, and it is extremely popular during hanami when the canal is covered with pink sakura petals.
Kyoto: A Walk Along the Philosopher's Path
The founder of the Kyoto School, Kitaro Nishida (1870-1945), embodying the momentum of contemporary Japanese thought, passed through the Philosopher's Path every day on his way to the university, probably reflecting on his concept of the "pure experience".
The Philosopher's Path (aka "the Path of Philosophy") is a tree-lined pathway that follows the canal. You will need to travel northeast of Kyoto to walk this famous pathway. Its layout connects the Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) to the north, and the Eikan-do Zenrin-ji temple to the south.
In this timeless place, the seasons mark their passage. The changing light modifies the landscape. Symbols of the ephemeral, cherry blossoms brighten up this place during the hanami: in fact, around a hundred sakura trees are planted along the canal.
To contemplate the pink and white blossoms of the hundreds of trees spread out over the two kilometers along the path is to inhale the scent of spring and reflection of impermanence. In the fall, when maple foliage sets the wooded hills ablaze, the spectacle is truly magnificent. During the winter months, the area is calm. A melancholy or joyful journey, depending on the mood.
- Read more: Top 10 best free activities in Kyoto
Shops and sights Around Philosophers Path
Besides the walk itself, many points of interest are scattered along the route.
The canal is lined with small bars, artisanal stalls, and tea pavilions: it is possible to take a lunch or snack break at any time.
- Green Terrace:
We particularly recommend the riverside café: Green Terrace. You can enjoy a beautiful terrace directly overlooking the path, very pleasant, especially in summer!
Address: 606-8421 Kyoto, Sakyo Ward, Shishigatani Honenincho, 72 Terrace Philosophy Road
Open every day except Wednesday from 10 am to 6 pm
Don't miss the Bougatei boutique, set up in a magnificent blue house that is impossible to miss. You will find typically Japanese handcrafted creations: bags, pouches, purses, jewelry, yukata, fans, chopsticks, etc.
Address: 86 Jodoji Kamiminamidacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606 - 8405
Open every day from 11 am to 6 pm
Along The Philosopher's Path
Following the Philosopher's Path can be an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone - or more. There are many temples and shrines that have been built not far from the famous path.
It is possible to take a day or an afternoon to enjoy the complete course, for example, begin at Nanzen-ji temple, south of the Philosopher's Path, and end at Ginkaku-ji to the north.
This will optimize visits and save time, as this part of the city is also only accessible by bus.
Begin your walk at Nanzen-ji, a very pleasant walk due to its large park and multiple smaller temples. Continuing north, visitors can stop at Eikan-do Zenrin-ji, whose splendid garden is particularly famous in autumn.
It is then possible to stop to take a look at the small Kumano Nyakuoji-jinja shrine, nestled in the greenery. This is where the canal and the Philosopher's Path begins. From there, you will find many small Buddhist temples in the east of the canal, along the side of the mountain, such as Reikan-ji, Anraku-ji, or even Honen-in.
Finally, the walk ends in style with the Ginkaku-ji, located at the north end of the Philosopher's Path and particularly popular with the Japanese. All you have to do is take a small shopping street that leads directly to the Silver Pavilion. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a zen and moss garden.
Do not to start this walk too late: the Ginkaku-ji, like most Japanese temples, closes at 5 pm
Address, timetable & access
TimetableBus #32 or 100: Ginkakuji-mae stop