The Path of Philosophy (Or The Long Walk Home...)

Higashiyama Ward Travel Blog

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Tetsugaku-no-Michi, the start of the Path of Philosophy

Stumbling out of the cafe, slightly high on sugar, we stumbled onto The Path almost immediately.  The sugar coursing through our veins must have awakened the senses somehow, as we'd missed it completely before lunch.  Either that, or the way to enlightenment is more obvious when E-numbers are whizzing through your system and your tounge has gone a kaleidoscopic pink...

The Tetsugaku-no-Michi is a beautiful walk along one of the canals in Kyoto.  It's lined with cherry trees, and I imagine that when they blossom it would be stunning.  The path is named because the influential 20th century Japanese philosopher Professor Nishida Kitaro used it for daily meditation.

I tried to think of something philosophical, but no dice!
 Apparently it takes thirty minutes to walk the path (if only philosophical understanding was guaranteed in the same time); though it took us much longer as we stopped to look at all the sights and temples along the way.

The first was the shinto Otoyo Shrine; notable for the many stone statues of the animal deities.  It was completely deserted, but fantastically colourful and full of interesting shrines, statues and torii gates.  We stumbled across it completely by accident, but it's well worth a look.

We were looking for Honen-in, apparently a temple noted for its stunning grounds and peaceful setting.  Whilst debating a variety of philosophical questions, such as "Is a nod as good as a wink to a blind man?" or "If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?" and "If Schrödinger was abusing that cat, should someone have called the RSPCA?"

We left the path and thought we had it.

 It wasn't.  It was actually a graveyard next to a rather impressive house.  Feeling a bit stupid we tried to return to the path - which we'd lost.  Luckily, we weren't the only ones.  We stumbled across other tourists looking bemused and not at one with the world.

More vague wanderings followed, and little enlightenment was to be had.  Eventually we found the temple - it was stunning.  Set inside a small wood the trees shielded Kyoto from view and the tranquillity was imposed.  We wandered the gardens for a little while enjoying the coolness the drop in temperature allowed.  There was an ancient man tending the immaculate garden, snipping individual blades of grass from the lawn with almost comedy over sized shears.

Looking down at Kyoto from Tetsugaku-no-Michi
 He'd stoop down, pause and snip.  Slowly he'd straighten up and step forward.  He'd stoop down, pause and snip.  Rinse and repeat.  Rinse and repeat.  It was very soothing.

From the quiet and tranquillity of Honen-in we next headed for Ginkaku-ju Temple, the Silver Pavilion.  The temple is a Zen temple built in 1482; and according to the free leaflet is the place where Higashiyama culture formed and is "the start of modern life style of the Japanese."  It's importance was illustrated by the fact that the place was literally packed with Japanese tourists.

We walked up a bustling and packed shopping street and through the bamboo lined gateway into the temple.  We snaked in single file round the grounds, admiring the sand sculptures of waves lapping towards a huge sand representation of Mt.

This is someone's garden! It was amazing!
Fuji.  The level of effort and detail was amazing - having seen the old stooping man I could easily imagine that each grain had been meticulously placed with a pair of tweezers.

The path snaked up the nearby hill and into the trees.  The view down across the temple, bamboo path and back into the hustle and bustle of the city was stunning.  It was nice to catch your breath in some cool(er) conditions and look out over the crowds; but the temple itself was packed, and the feeling of being forced marched around was a little off putting.

After Ginkaku-ju we headed back into the city, abandoning philosophy and Zen for a quick cig on a low wall near one of the ubiquitous drinks vending machines.  The plan was to stroll back towards the Imperial Palace and then down to the hotel.

 We crossed the river, and after an age (my legs were feeling quite unenlightened and were aching like mad) we reached the park.

The Imperial Palace dominates the top end of the park.  You can't miss it pretty much as soon as you get inside.  The tall, imposing walls forming a squat square, with impressive (if a little menacing) gates set in the wall at regular intervals.  We hobbled over to take a closer look.  You can book in to actually enter the palace, but that seemed like a lot of effort as it required numerous forms, lots of money and a strict adherence to times and protocol.  None of these things were our strengths, so some external snooping would have to suffice.

We snapped a few shots, each trying to get more arty and pretentious than the other.

 In an attempt at a long shot showing the dramatic scale of the wall juxtaposed against the softened natural background, my mate stepped over a trickle of water and onto the ledge next to the wall.

Sirens!  Alarms!  Panic!

Suddenly a wail of an alarm rent the air, and a disembodied recording proceeded to scold us; first in Japanese and then in English.  it threatened police and arrest - possible disembowelment or origami I can't be sure.  Using the remaining strength available to us we did what all tourists would do in our situation - we legged it.  Or hobbled it at any rate.

This mad flight through back streets without pause (except for a drink - lord love a vending machine culture) led us back to the hotel.  We gratefully went into the air-conditioned haven and collapsed, satisfied that even if enlightenment had passed us by, we had the aches to prove we'd tried to walk the path.

Vipin says:
glad to see you getting back in the blog-writing groove!
Posted on: Dec 15, 2010
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Tetsugaku-no-Michi, the start of t…
Tetsugaku-no-Michi, the start of …
I tried to think of something phil…
I tried to think of something phi…
Looking down at Kyoto from Tetsuga…
Looking down at Kyoto from Tetsug…
This is someones garden!  It was …
This is someone's garden! It was…
Walking towards the Otoyo Shrine
Walking towards the Otoyo Shrine
A tanuki, most famous for the Ghib…
A tanuki, most famous for the Ghi…
The entrance to the shrine with ki…
The entrance to the shrine with k…
Looking through the torii at the s…
Looking through the torii at the …
A cheeky mouse statue
A cheeky mouse statue
Close up of the kitsune
Close up of the kitsune
Now a monkey!  This place is like …
Now a monkey! This place is like…
Now a hawk!
Now a hawk!
Looking up at the shrine through t…
Looking up at the shrine through …
Looking down the Path of Philosophy
Looking down the Path of Philosophy
A random graveyard
A random graveyard
Mmmm, nature
Mmmm, nature
Trying to find the surprisingly el…
Trying to find the surprisingly e…
I have no idea what this is.  Seri…
I have no idea what this is. Ser…
What we thought was Hõnnen-in, bu…
What we thought was Hõnnen-in, b…
Roadside shrine
Roadside shrine
Hõnnen-in?  Maybe...
Hõnnen-in? Maybe...
Sculpture - what of I hear you ask…
Sculpture - what of I hear you as…
Ah, a stone lantern - therefore I …
Ah, a stone lantern - therefore I…
Hõnnen-in - finally!
Hõnnen-in - finally!
The entrance to the temple.  Found…
The entrance to the temple. Foun…
A raked garden sculpture in the H…
A raked garden sculpture in the H…
One of the sub-temples across the …
One of the sub-temples across the…
As close as we were allowed to get…
As close as we were allowed to ge…
A Buddha statue at Hõnnen-in
A Buddha statue at Hõnnen-in
Feet!
Feet!
Many stones.  Holy?  Not holy?  Co…
Many stones. Holy? Not holy? C…
The Path of the Philosopher
The Path of the Philosopher
Looking up the path
Looking up the path
View up at Daimonji yama
View up at Daimonji yama
The shopping road leading to Ginka…
The shopping road leading to Gink…
Ginkaku-ju Temple - its name tran…
Ginkaku-ju Temple - it's name tra…
Looking up at the sky
Looking up at the sky
Part of the zen garden with sand s…
Part of the zen garden with sand …
Some of the stunning grounds at Gi…
Some of the stunning grounds at G…
The other sand sculpture - this on…
The other sand sculpture - this o…
Looking up at Daimonji Yama
Looking up at Daimonji Yama
Ginsyadan and kougetudai
Ginsyadan and kougetudai
The Silver Pavilion
The Silver Pavilion
The grounds at Ginkaku-ju
The grounds at Ginkaku-ju
The garden was staggeringly striki…
The garden was staggeringly strik…
Looking down on the temple and Kyo…
Looking down on the temple and Ky…
Some more of the stunning garden a…
Some more of the stunning garden …
The bamboo that lined the path to …
The bamboo that lined the path to…
A hidden Buddha
A hidden Buddha
Walking down towards the river nea…
Walking down towards the river ne…
The river, Shira-kawa
The river, Shira-kawa
The Kyoto Imperial Palace park
The Kyoto Imperial Palace park
About as close to the palace you c…
About as close to the palace you …
The Imperial Palace walls
The Imperial Palace walls
The main gate to the palace - poss…
The main gate to the palace - pos…
Just before Mark stepped over the …
Just before Mark stepped over the…
Another gate
Another gate
Looking at the city through the pa…
Looking at the city through the p…
Long and forbidding walls
Long and forbidding walls
Pretty blossom
Pretty blossom
The last shot I got of the park be…
The last shot I got of the park b…
Higashiyama Ward
photo by: andytite