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Philosopher's Path in Kyoto: Seasonal Sights and Shops Along the Famous Walking Course

Philosopher's Path in Kyoto: Seasonal Sights and Shops Along the Famous Walking Course

Date published: 9 September 2019
Last updated: 9 October 2020

The Philosopher's Path in Kyoto located at the foot of Higashiyama, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto is one of the most popular walking paths in the city. In this article we will introduce some wonderful shops we discovered while strolling along paths bathed in sunlight filtered through trees.

About the Philosopher's Path in Kyoto

The Philosopher's Path extends about 1.8 km along a canal carrying water from Lake Biwa to the Higashiyama foothills. The trees planted along the road from the Ginkakuji Bridge area to the Nyakuoji Bridge area near Eikando Temple change their appearance with each season; cherries followed by new green leaves and then the pastel hues of autumn, attracting many visitors who come to view these beautiful expressions of nature.

▲ A monument erected near the intersection of Shirakawa Imadegawa. From here we will begin our walk.

The Philosopher's Path in Kyoto was made in 1890 upon the completion of the canal, bringing water from Lake Biwa and was formerly a maintenance route.

At that time, intellectuals, such as the philosopher Kitaro Nishida of Kyoto University, lived nearby, and they would think over their ideas while walking along this path, and that is how it eventually became called the Philosopher's Path.

Today it is maintained as a pathway and been selected as one of the 100 best paths in Japan. There are many unique cafes and restaurants in the area which are popular with visitors.

Walking the Kyoto Philosopher's Path: Views change with the seasons

Walking the Kyoto Philosopher's Path: Views change with the seasons
▲The Philosopher's Path in spring when the cherries are in full bloom. This is one of the best places in Kyoto for viewing cherry blossoms.

Many cherry trees line the Philosopher's Path. Three hundred cherry trees were given to the city as a gift in 1921 by the Japanese-style painter Kansetsu Hashimoto and his wife Yone, who lived in this area. The original trees have died and since been replaced, but these, too, are called Kansetsu Sakura [Kansetsu's Cherry Trees] and are much loved by the people.

There are several small bridges crossing the canal. There is an actual pathway on the opposite side of the canal from the paved walking path. Crossing over these bridges from time to time enables you to enjoy the scenery from a different perspective.

When I happened to look down, I saw this stray cat. Even though I am not a cat lover, seeing this cat leisurely enjoying itself sitting in the sun I found very soothing.

Ao Onigiri: Rice balls topped with lots of ingredients for takeout

Ao Onigiri: Rice balls topped with lots of ingredients for takeout

I developed a bit of an appetite walking along this path! Here is a gourmet spot I discovered which I recommend. Ao Onigiri is located about 100 meters west of the Philosopher's Path and is a shop that specializes in handmade rice balls. In front of this unique shop, there is a "rice ball shrine" enshrining the god of rice balls.

There are ten seats at the counter, so it is also possible to eat in the shop. If you decide on takeout, then the rice balls are wrapped in bamboo leaves. There are many pictures on the wall inside the shop dedicated to the ‘Ao Oni’ – the blue ogre you would typically find at temples.

This is the owner, Mr. Aomatsu, who is very adept at making rice balls. The shop opened in 2011 and is run singlehandedly by him. Reservations are not needed to eat in the shop, but during the lunch hour, often, you might have to stand in line to get in. I recommend that you reserve rice balls that you want for takeout a day in advance.

There is a rich variety of ingredients ranging from the more orthodox, such as salmon, plum, and konbu kelp, to uniquely different ones, such as keema curry and cream cheese. This selection of three consisted of, from the left, the Ao Oni no Tsume [Blue Demon's Claw] having a spicy small fish and green pepper topping (180 yen tax included), the Sujiko Sake [roe and salmon] (220 yen tax included), and the Motchiri Gemmai Shio [chewy salted brown rice] rice ball (180 yen tax included).

Each rice ball had a unique flavor and texture, whether it was the one with a delicious salty flavor and soft, white rice that seemed to melt in the mouth, or the firmer, chewier brown rice. The ingredients of each perfectly matched and so delicious I devoured them all in the blink of an eye!

Why not enjoy these delicious rice balls during your walk?

  • Ao Onigiri
    • Address 39-3 Jodoji Shimominamida-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
    • Phone Number 075-201-3662
    • Hours: 11:30 a.m. Until sold out
      Closed: Monday, Tuesday and at other unscheduled times

      * Not possible for groups of 5 or more or families to eat inside

BEL AMER Kyoto Bettei: Chocolate specialty shop on the path approaching Ginkakuji

BEL AMER Kyoto Bettei: Chocolate specialty shop on the path approaching Ginkakuji

At the end of the Philosopher's Path on the northern side, if you head towards Higashiyama, you will come to Ginkakuji (Jishoji Temple). There are several souvenir shops and places to eat lining the approach to the temple, and the bustle of activity around them stands in contrast to the quiet of the Philosopher's Path.

By now, your feet may be getting tired from all the walking. So this would be an excellent time to take a short break at a cafe.

A good place to do that is at the BEL AMER Kyoto Bettei Ginkakuji Shop, which opened in September 2017.

Each chocolate is carefully made from the finest cacao, and the flavors are designed to match the climate and culture of Japan.

The chocolates are also quite colorful. Scenes depicting the seasons in Japan printed on the surface of the chocolates, which are called Chocolat Miyabi (260 yen each, tax included). The one with the morning glory design has a ramune and mojito flavor, and the one with a moon has a roasted soybean powder and caramel flavor; each a beautiful blend of Japanese and Western ingredients producing a new taste.

These are Mizuho Drops (260 yen each including tax). This series marries chocolate with such Japanese ingredients as Kyoto Fushimi sake, Japanese tea, and jellies made from domestically produced fruit.

▲Ohnishi Tea Garden Shingu Tea First Harvest (900 yen excluding tax)

Time to relax with a cup of tea. There is also a space inside the shop where you can eat.

This set combines a specially made limited edition chocolate with tea made from the soft, new sprouts of pesticide-free Shingu tea from Aichi Prefecture. The flavor of the hot Shingu tea goes exceptionally well with the chocolate, which is infused with tea leaves.

▲ Harimaen Organic Matcha Green Tea (900 yen excluding tax)

The chocolate selected by the chocolatier perfectly matches the matcha tea carefully made from tea leaves that were shaded from the sun for more than 20 days. The caramel with roasted soybean flour chocolate was selected. The gentle sweetness and mellow taste of the green tea come together in the mouth in a perfect blend you will find most soothing.

Savoring the sweet chocolate and warm cup of tea while admiring the neat, little garden is certain to relax and refresh you.

  • Chocolat BEL AMER Kyoto Bettei Ginkakuji Shop
    ショコラ ベルアメール 京都別邸 銀閣寺店
    • Address 75-1 Ginkakuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
    • Phone Number 075-771-1005
    • Hours: 10:00 a.m. ~ 5:30 p.m. (Times may vary according to the season)
      Closed: unscheduled days
      * The type of chocolate may change from time to time

Kyoto in Season: The view along the Philosopher's Path changes each season

Kyoto in Season: The view along the Philosopher's Path changes each season

Last of all we would like to show you how it looks in each season. As mentioned earlier, in the spring it is a popular place for viewing cherry blossoms. You can feel the arrival of spring as you walk along the 1.8 km path under the cherry blossoms.

New leaves sprout after the cherry blossoms drop. The sun peeking through the new leaves of the trees and the clean, fresh air herald the arrival of summer. Before the rainy season, hydrangeas bloom here and there signaling the season is about to change.

Once the air becomes chilly, the leaves turn autumnal colors, exhibiting exquisite gradations of greens, yellows, and vermilion. Fall is the season that attracts the most visitors, the scenery being picture-perfect.

Time seems to pass quite slowly when walking along the Kyoto Philiospher's Path beside the canal that brings water from Lake Biwa. Be sure to stop by the unique shops during your walk as you enjoy the atmosphere and charms of Kyoto.

Text by:Myogaya Nobuhisa

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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