The Philosopher’s Walk in Kyōto gets its name from one of Japan’s most famous philosophy professors, Nishida Kitarō (1870-1945), who is said to have taken this walk as his daily meditation. The trail runs alongside a canal. It begins at the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, goes past Eikando Temple and several shrines and ends at Nanzenji Temple. The walk is particularly scenic in April, when the area comes alive with the profusion of blossoms on the hundreds of cherry trees.
The walk itself is only about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) and takes roughly half an hour. It’s best to give yourself at least a few hours, however, so you can explore the sights along the way. The area is also full of restaurants where you can try katsu curry, in which the main meat ingredient is breadcrumbed, engage in a tea ceremony, and have kaiseki, a traditional multicourse dinner.
The canal, built during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), is crossed by picturesque bridges and surrounded by greenery. It begins a little way from the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, where you’ll find a moss garden, an unusual dry sand garden and temple buildings containing statues of the goddess of mercy. From here you will pass Honen-in Temple, Anrakuji Temple, and two shrines with beautiful gardens.
The path will also take you close to Eikando Temple, which is arranged at the base of a hill. Its buildings are connected by wooden walkways. In the fall, the temple is open later in the evenings and lit up so that the brilliant reds of the leaves in the gardens glow.
Nanzenji is the last temple on the Philosopher’s Walk. Entry to Nanzenji’s main temple grounds is free, but there is a fee to see inside some of the buildings. Make sure you climb to the top of the Sanmon gate for views over the city, and visit the head priest’s residence to see the Zen rock garden, and tiger paintings in gold leaf on the sliding doors.
The Philosopher’s Walk is in the Higashiyama district. Buses run from Eikando Temple back into central Kyōto.