After our guides left us, we headed towards the Philosopher’s Path, so named since Nishida Kitaro, founder of the Kyoto school of philosophy, frequently strolled along this route. His work focused on clarifying in contemporary philosophical terms the significance of the Zen Buddhist concept of Nothingness, which may seem a little ironic considering the rich sensuality of this path in the spring time. Well perhaps this is not ironic at all since by Nothingness Kitaro was pointing at the not a stagnant void, but the bottomless well-spring of everything that is manifest in the ever changing world we encounter. We only got to see Kitaro’s path as it underwent one small part of the many changes he must have witnessed walking back and forth on this serene hillside beside a small irrigation canal throughout the year, as afternoon faded into dusk. Before we got there however, we encountered another unexpected jewel, the Jodo sect’s head temple of Eikando.
Surrounded by mossy gardens the wooden structures of Eikando wander up a hillside to a pagoda overlooking the floodplain of eastern Kyoto. Here among and within these beautiful structures we watched monks go about their daily business including doing their later afternoon chanting in the main dharma hall.
It was a nice place to sit quietly before witnessing the splendor of late afternoon among the pink clouds of the cherry blossoms lining the Philosopher’s path.
The path runs alongside an old stone lined irrigation canal that was part of Kyoto’s water supply. It runs along the side of a hill that above it quickly rises into steeper mountainous terrain, and below it gradually spreads out into the numerous small residential streets and alleys of eastern Kyoto. Parts are adjacent to a small road, and there are some small bridges crossing the canal in places but it is mostly quiet with occasional views of the city below. It runs for a few kilometers ending at Ginkakuji — the famous silver temple. We didn’t get to see Ginkakuji before it closed in the early evening because we were too captivated by the route there.
By the time we were finished strolling along the path night had fallen, to even more beautiful scenes of cherry blossoms at night.
Eventually we managed to find a bus to the train station and after a much needed bowl of hot soup we caught the last train back to Ako. What an amazing day it was, and impossible to really express in words. Hopefully these pictures convey something of the indescribable experience.