Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Well, I can’t say we were up with the sun today after our busy day yesterday. When we eventually emerged the sun was up…I had a quick call with my wife on Skype which was very nice even though it was midnight her time.

Breakfast was in the cafe again. It is quite nice though a bit on the light side for me. Mother likes it which is good.


Today we looked out the window past the taxi rank and into the surrounding area to see a light snowfall - This was not light fluffy snow you see in warmer weather. It looked cold.

Warming Up Before Heading Out...

Despite all of our walking on Monday we had not made it to my objective since we had first come here to Kyoto back in 2007: The Philosopher’s Walk which is a walk along a pretty canal with temples and shrines off to the side. It is called the Philosopher’s Walk as there is a story that a philosopher used to walk the same trail every day for most of his life. Despite having visited the area on our visit in 2007 we had never actually made it to the trail and, it turns out, not even to the beginning of it.

So, we headed out to continue our walk from where we had left off heading north. We returned to the gates of Nanzen-Ji Temple then followed the road around it stopping briefly to look into an unmarked (at least in English) shrine just off the trail.


As we turned away from the temple we climbed a small road that led around to the back of Nanzen-Ji Temple - Nothing to see here that we had not already seen so we continued on our quest for the Philosopher’s Walk. Along the narrow road we passed under a small tori (temple gate) then a school where a number of children were in their martial arts outfits running down the road obviously not enjoying the experience. The traffic was little and far between with most the buildings around here very nice houses or temples - all enclosed in walls.

Beside the school is the truly massive Eikando Zenrin-ji temple (the original Buddhism training hall on this site was built in 853). Entering the outer gate even the main entrance was quite some distance with temple buildings on our left, cycle and car parks on our right along with a small ornamental lake (with a shine on an island in the middle accessed by a pretty bridge - yes, the lake had koi).

The Lake

We paid our entrance fee (600 yen) and started our wander. We entered the main temple complex, leaving behind our shoes and putting on the helpfully supplied slippers. To our right was a small zen garden where a young monk was raking a pattern in a perfectly formed oblong raised gravel bed receiving helpful advice from several other monks sitting and watching. He was just finishing up but had to smooth over one spot and try again. The concentration was quite amazing as he carefully inched his rake across the surface yet again to form the pattern perfectly.

The Perfectly Raked Zen Garden

The complex is quite amazing and arranged in quite an interesting yet, it seemed, fairly random way. As we made our way around the buildings along the wood walkways we looked into the various tatami-carpeted rooms to see the paintings on the walls (of course, no pictures were allowed inside).

Walkway Up the Mountain

Looking Down

As we got around to the back there was a walkway above another garden that zigged and zagged it’s way between the buildings leading to the rock face of the mountain behind with a staircase to the left (Garyuro) leading to another shrine with fantastic views of the city and the staircase to the right leading to yet more shrines and temple buildings including the main worship hall (Amida-do) with a magnificent shrine in the middle.

View of the City

We were encouraged to visit around the back of the shrine where specific features were pointed out.

Walking Around

Everywhere was very interesting and an amazing picture despite it not being the season where I am sure the temple can be seen at it’s best. A bamboo covered basin between the two staircases, for example, turned out to be a well that you could use the provided ladle to pour water over the bamboo to make simple but melodic sounds as the water dripped and echoed (“Sui-kin-kutsu”)…Quite peaceful. According to the sign this is supposed to sound like a “Koto”, a traditional Japanese harp…not sure i heard a harp but it was quite pretty anyway.

Gardens, of course, were everywhere.

Interesting Drain-spout...

We sat for a few minutes looking at the zen garden near the front entrance. I went and poured us some green tea which we sat drinking while we enjoyed the view. It was cold but sunny here and the tea warmed us on the inside. The shapes in the garden and the raked stones with the different colours of moss and small ornamental trees. Very peaceful. Not sure what it would be like with the masses of tourists that no doubt descend in the warmer months but for now all is quite calm here.


Ornate Dragon Water Spout

Leaving the main building we grabbed our shoes before continuing…

Where are my shoes???

Before leaving the temple we visited a small cemetery on the side of the mountain on the far side of the temple. We saw more of the carved figures that are clothed with red cloth. Not sure what that is referring to but we have seen this in many of the temples and shrines we have visited.


Dressed in Red

Continuing on along the road we followed the signs to the beginning of the Philosopher’s Walk which, by now, I was calling the “Falafel Walk” as it was easier to say (and much more amusing…ok, to me). Turning to the right we climbed up a gentle slope to where the trail begins with a short stop in a stall selling some Japanese clothing and art where the owner was very happy to see someone taking an interest to invited us in, giving us some tea and local biscuits as we looked around the tiny shop. Mother picked up a light Japanese house-coat for her husband and I just looked at the bits and bobs finding it a bit expensive…She was also talked into the traditional Japanese belt to be worn with the coat as well. But it was quite fun…

Tourist Clothing Shop on Right

At the top of the small road we had finally arrived at the beginning of the Philosopher’s Walk with the canal heading off on our left - Bare cherry blossom trees on either side and a small walkway of paving stones immediately beside the water then a road running alongside that. We were a bit tired so stopped at another small shrine (Kumanonyakuoji Shrine) to sit and have a coke (and coffee).

Wash Your Hands...

Finally we set foot on the trail and began to follow it as it wound it’s way through the surrounding parkland, houses and temples.

The Philosopher's Walk Begins in Ernest

Hurray! Finally on the Philosopher's Walk

Very soon into the walk we noticed a large number of cats on the side of the road being fed then saw a small old-fashioned carriage with padding inside that had cats curled up and sleeping in. Reading the side it was a tea house. It seemed to attract a few people were stopping to have a look at the cats and give them a pat.

Lounging Cats

The canal has quite steep, deep sides with the shallow, rocky water moving very quickly. We did see a number of koi as we made our way along the path.

The Walk

We headed up a side trail to the Otoyo-jinja Shrine which turned out to be devoted to animals so everywhere we looked there were figures of animals from mythical (gargoyles, dragons, etc) to common (monkeys, birds, cats, foxes, frogs, rats, etc). There were small shrines that seemed to be devoted to different types of animals: One was for foxes and another was for rats (!).


Mouse?  Rat?

Returning to the path we tried to find another shrine but we never did find it as we climbed higher and higher onto narrower and narrower roads deep into a residential area. It is still so clean and pretty everywhere.

More Views Along the Walk

The roads are in such good condition and it is rare that you see a building in any state of disrepair. Here and there are small ryokan (Japanese guest houses) but other than that there are few signs pointing anywhere.

A LOT of Temples...

All of the buildings are not very tall - Two stories maximum meaning that when you are up you can see quite a distance. Oddly, we found several orange trees covered with untouched fruit (leading me to wonder if they were just ornamental).

Orange Trees

The one thing missing along here are a lot of shops or…er…toilets. So we were getting a bit desperate by mid-afternoon. On the far side of the canal we found a small tea shop that turned out to be quite amazing. Entering off of the street into a small courtyard the entrance to the tea house was to our left but a small path lead around the building ahead of us.

Tea House

It was here that the tea house garden was located with a small shop at the end of the garden selling, for some reason, high-end cosmetics.

Back Garden

We quickly headed into the tea house to find that it was incredibly busy. Leaving our shoes at the door we were shown to a small room - Obviously the tea room souvenir shop with various sweets and trinkets for sale. Asking for the toilet I was escorted into the next room - Where there were a large number of Japanese couples lounging on the tatami mats drinking tea from small tables facing in the same direction - Through a glass wall overlooking the garden.

View of the Wonderful Garden

I sheepishly made my way in front of the window to the toilets at the far end (very clean toilets with their own sandals). Sigh. Much better. Returning to the waiting room mother was next. Of course, we could not just use the facilities and run so we had already committed to having tea and this turned out to be an amazing experience. I was shown to our space on the tatami before mother returned - a position immediately in front of the window on the far left.


We leisurely reviewed the menu (helpfully in English) and ordered some tea. We are not particularly enjoying the “macha” in offer pretty much everywhere here - It is a deep green almost the colour of paint and not much more tasty (no offence) - VERY grassy and quite bitter. We shared a dessert of some ice cream and dainty sweets.


Nearing the end of the walk we lastly visited to the Honen-in Temple or, should I say, TRIED to visit as by the time we climbed up through the tori and along the stone path to the main entrance it was closed. The stone path leading to Honen-in looks perfect with the dirt surrounding it compacted and swept so the the roots of the surrounding trees are exposed. Amazing.

Path to...the closed temple

The Felafel Walk

The last temple on the main part of the Philosopher’s Walk is the Ginkakuji Temple that we also walked up to that was also closed. This area of the walk is far busier with a number of shops all along the road leading to Ginkakuji. We stopped for a few minutes to have a couple of cream puffs (avoiding the green tea flavour) in a small stall along the road sitting in front of a heater to try to warm us up a bit. A dog was minding the small seating area and stared at us as we ate…

Shops On Road to Temple

The issue has always been with the Philosopher’s Walk is that there is no major public transportation to it. In this case we were at the far end even further from any subway station. As we left the temple behind we passed by a number of taxis and then large queues of people waiting for buses. Buses seemed a bit scary to us since we had never used them before so we figured a “short” walk to the nearest train station, located on the river, would not be too bad. Oh dear.

It was quite a walk to Demachiyanagi station. Following the busy road we passed by a museum, a temple and Kyoto University - For a time the far side was also the end of the canal we had been following as part of the walk. It was interesting seeing a bit more of the real Kyoto with small shops, restaurants and hotels as well as children leaving school.

Yes, the Octopus Moves

30 minutes or so later we arrived at Demachiyanagi and the river. We caught the subway south to Gion Shijo in the Gion district. On this train we were actually able to sit at the very front of the train which had windows allowing you to look out of the front of the train and see the driver. I spent the time relaxing my tired legs and watching the tunnel as we passed through.

At Shichijo we left the station, heading west and over the river into an area where we knew there are a lot of shops and restaurants. All along the river there are buildings about 4-5 stories high overlooking the river with what must be amazing views in the springtime when the cherry blossom trees line the banks. Behind the buildings there are small narrow alleyways barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast. Walking along here we saw that most of the buildings housed very expensive restaurants - often more than one. The views must be amazing but we were not really in the mood for an expensive meal (most of the meals seemed to start at about 3,000 yen).


We left the alleys and soon found a small Korean BBQ all-you-can-eat restaurant in the middle of an open area beside a small stream. It had a menu in English and looked to be quite reasonable.

Korean BBQ

Heading in we were told to wait a couple of minutes then shown a booth close to the door. They had three different price levels for the menu depending on the number of choices on offer (1,980 yen for 50 dishes, 2,480 yen for 90 dishes, and 2,980 yen for 120 dishes - softdrinks were bottomless as well, 400 yen). We went for the middle level which seemed to offer a good selection. For the most part the dishes basically consisted of raw ingredients that you cooked on the grill built into the table between us. Mother had some marinaded chicken which was diced and tasted amazing. We had some vegetables as well (including, oddly, some corn on the cob). A soup of noodles was quite nice as well. When we arrived they wrote down the time as we were only allowed to stay for 90 minutes. Needless to say, we finished well before that including a bit of dessert.


Sometimes when you are travelling you realise you have forgotten something and in this case we had realised we had not packed any nail clippers so our task for this evening was to find some. We ended up in an outdoor (though covered) pedestrian shopping centre that I recall seeing on our previous visit. It runs parallel to the streets on either side and has a variety of shops including what we were looking for - A pharmacy where we found our clippers. We wandered around for a few minutes and stopped for a second to notice that in the middle of all of the shops was an ancient-looking shrine (and it was just as busy as the shops).

Shopping Arcade


It was getting up to about 9 pm but there were still a number of people out window shopping which we joined in…One window we spotted a number of traditional Japanese shoes for sale with one pair having a price tag of 51,450 yen (!).

Very Expensive Shoes (Far Right)

We also found another cat cafe…

Another Cat Cafe!

Boy, after being unable to find the one we saw in Tokyo we have found, without even trying, two here in Kyoto!

Tired, we made our way to the “Kyoto Shiyakushomae” subway station for the trip back to the hotel.

Last Journey Today

I realised on our way back that perhaps I should have looked around in the shopping arcade for the videos I have been looking for…Oh well.

>> Next: Day 9

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