When most visitors go to the Tetsugaku-no-Michi area, they often only see the furthest end of it where the road meets the entrance to the world-famous temple, Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavilion). However, the route is unfairly underexplored. Even a short diversion from the major attraction will reveal some of the area’s more interesting temples, a thriving art scene and the beautiful nature which inspired generations of writers and philosophers.
Appropriately for an area that inspired so many creative people, Tetsugaku-no-Michi literally translates as the Philosopher’s Road. According to local stories, the legendary philosopher Kitaro Nishida used to walk through the area deep in thought. It is said that some of the great writer’s finest works, pieces that brought the philosophies of the East and West together, were the result of these walks.
It is easy to see what inspired the great thinker as even in these days where the route is dotted with local cafes and tourist-orientated restaurants, there are still plenty of things to contemplate. One of the things that continue to inspire creative people today is its natural setting with a small stream that runs alongside places to view cherry blossoms in spring and attractive red leaves in fall.
As well as these natural attractions, people interested in the creative side of Japan will enjoy exploring the roads that lead off the main path. Many of these side roads lead to small shops that sell authentic local handcrafts and unique art pieces. Visitors looking for unique gifts can easily get lost for hours in these stores.
While these sights are worthwhile distractions, as is typical of Kyoto, the major attractions are the temples. Starting at Ginkakuji, a short walk leads the visitor to Honen-in, known for its carp and carefully styled sand crafts; followed by Eikan-do with its wooden walkways and views over Kyoto; and finally on to Nanzenji which offers a fascinatingly shaped gate, a natural setting and a rock garden. Many of the temples still have active communities of monks, giving the area an authentic feel that is becoming increasingly uncommon even in Kyoto.
Philosopher’s road has so many different temples, artistic stores and beautiful natural sights that it is easy to understand why these sights continue to inspire thinkers even now. It is a small oasis of art and creativity nearby one of the busiest parts of Kyoto. Anyone willing to take a small trip off the main route will discover that no matter which aspect of Kyoto, cultural, natural or historical, they are interested in, there will be something to inspire them at Tetsugaku-no-Michi.
The road is most easily accessed from Keage station on the Tozai line of the Kyoto subway. (Map) For people coming from Kyoto station, the Ginkakuji end of Tetsugaku-no-Michi is accessed by buses 5, 17 or 100.