Appropriately earning its famed name, a contemplative stroll along the Philosopher’s Path (known as Tetsugaku no michi) is the best way to spend an hour or two exploring Kyoto on foot. Away from the bustling downtown quarters, this residential backstreet, free to both pedestrians and deep thinkers, is more than just a breath of fresh air.
The stone-paved path that runs between Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji in Kyoto’s northern Higashiyama district is, in fact, named after an actual philosopher, Kitaro Nishida, who took frequent meditative walks along this now popular tourist trail.
Following along the pristine waters of the Shishigatani Canal, you’ll pass a number of noteworthy temples and shrines, as well as a handful of charming cafes serving up a nostalgic cup of hand drip coffee or a frothy brew of matcha.
A few meditative spots to keep your eyes peeled for are Honen-in Temple (a serene sanctuary still in active use as a Buddhist monastery), Otoyo Shrine (a small place of worship guarded not by shrine dogs, but instead by fearsome mice ), as well as the sprawling temple complexes of both Eikan-do and Nanzen-ji.
The ever-changing foliage from fall to spring displays a reel of classic Japanese seasonal showstoppers; from autumn-tinted cherry trees to winter blooming camellias, to lush greenery playing host to fireflies in the summertime. The biggest crowd-pleaser though are the pink blooms of cherry blossoms canopying the canal in a luminous pink hue each spring.