The Philosopher’s PatH – A Walking Trail in Kyoto
Kyoto, once the imperial capital of Japan for almost 1000 years, is a beautiful city that is steeped in traditional Japanese culture. Even otherwise, as a symbol of modern Japan, that it is today, we felt strongly drawn to Kyoto, mainly for its ancient Buddhist temples, the zen gardens, the imperial palaces, the Shinto shrines, the very traditional wooden houses and some of the most unique long-standing traditions, such as the multi-course Kaiseki Dining, and the geisha shows, to name a few.
Thanks to prior planning (due credit goes to spouse for that!) our visit to Japan coincided with the arrival of the Cherry blossom season that only lasts for a week in a given year. Yes, only for a week. In every major city of Japan (i.e., Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka), the cherry blossom (locally referred to as the Sakura season) comes in early April. As true Sakura aficionados, we were lucky to be in time for a Hanami (cherry viewing season) under the blossoms and were completely blown away by the sheer beauty and scale of the blossoms as we travelled from one city to another. By the time we arrived in Kyoto, I think I was already in love with the city, having read all about it in Pico Iyer’s book, The Lady and the Monk, which spoke of Kyoto as one of the loveliest cities in the country.
Of course, we had an itinerary of things to see in Kyoto. From that long list of things we aimed to explore, one was going for the Philosopher’s path—a scenic walking trail which kept to its’ promise of ensuring ample photo opportunities for us to capture Mother Nature at her best. But, more than that, it also brought within us a sense of calm and serenity, way beyond what we could have ever imagined or anticipated.
The Philosopher’s Walk
Coming to the walk, which the locals refer to as Tetsugaku-no-Michi—it turned out to be not merely an enjoyable journey but also a spiritual experience. For the likes of many others like us who were eager to walk down that path, the path seemed culturally very significant, as was evident from the number of names associated with it—the Philosopher’s Walk, the Path of Philosophy, the Philosopher’s Path, and so on.
The Hanami Or Cherry Blossom Viewing Trail
Essentially a stone-clad walkway, the path followed a canal with hundreds of cherry trees flanking it on either side. Since it was early April, the trees were exploding with colour, making it one of the most popular hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots of Kyoto. A carpet of pink spread on the surface where the water flowed.
But, this was not all. What made it significant was that it bore a legacy with a historical connection. We gathered that this was the route taken by none other than the influential 20th-century Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro, who often meditated here, as he walked on his way to Kyoto University. Now, years later, many visitors and scholars aspired to follow in his footsteps, quite literally and even figuratively, hoping to replicate the philosopher’s spiritual journey—something that probably justified the many names it has acquired over the years.
We started our walk on this path from Ginkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) and ended at the Nanzenji Temple. The 2 km stretch took us about 50 minutes to cover, as the winding path led us down some very interesting diversions. We walked past small restaurants, quaint boutiques, antique shops selling knick-knacks and the inevitable snack stops, that kept us satiated.
Now, looking back, I’d say the walk epitomized the serenity and the unparalleled beauty that gave Kyoto its unique appeal as the cultural capital of Japan. People on the trail came from all over the world. Each, speaking a different language, with very distinct identities. And, yet, despite the cultural differences, one could see that the path was a means for people to connect with the heart and soul of Kyoto on a much deeper level.
In many ways, one could say that the Philosopher’s Path was more of a journey and less of a destination. A bit, you could say, like life itself!
Read Esha’s fascinating post from my second blogiversary on Exploring the Fascinating Congo Caves, of South Africa here.
Having started her career in teaching and training many moons ago, Esha discovered her penchant for the written word ever since she was in school, although blogging came into her life much later. As the owner of two blogs, (www.mysoultalks.com and www.theskygirl.com), she is drawn to soulful conversations. Her other interests are travelling, theatre, photography and skywatching. Spending time soaking in the sounds of silence feeds her soul.
This guest post has been written as part of my Third Blogiversay celebrations that started today. NatashaMusing turns 3 on 6 December, 2019.
Please mark your calendars, and join me here with my very talented blogger friends who will be gracing NatashaMusing the next six days with posts on some of my favourite genres: Musings and Reflections, Photography/Art, Travel, Well-Being and Fiction.
Esha Mookherjee of My Soul Talks : 5 December, 2019; #ThursdayThoughts
Keith Hillman of Keith’s Ramblings : : 6 December, 2019; #Fiction
Damyanti Biswas of Daily (W)rites : 7 December, 2018; #Fiction