The area comprising the Higashiyama (Eastern Mountains) lay outside of the official boundaries of the capital for most of Kyoto’s history. Today it is the main sightseeing district in Kyoto and is thick with impressive sights including fine temples, shrines, gardens, museums, traditional neighbourhoods and parks.
This is one of the most rewarding temples in Kyoto, with its expansive grounds and numerous subtemples. At the entrance stands a massive Sanmon, a two-storey gate built in 1626 to console the souls of those killed in the Summer Siege of Osaka Castle. It is said to have been the hideout of Ishikawa Goemon, a legendary outlaw hero who was later boiled alive in an iron cauldron. Beyond the main temple is the Hōjo (abbot’s quarters), which includes a small but exquisite zen garden. Nearby is a room overlooking a waterfall, where visitors can enjoy bowl of matcha (ceremonial tea) and a sweet.
The Philosopher’s Walk follows a cherry-lined canal meandering along the base of the scenic Higashiyama (Eastern Mountains) between Ginkaki-ji south to Nyakuoji-jia. The route is so named because a Kyoto University philosopher professor, Nishida Kitaro (1870-1945), used it for his daily constitutional. It takes 30 minutes to do the walk and is one of Kyoto’s best loved spots.
Ginkaku-Ji (The Silver Pavilion)
Ginkaku-Ji is considered by some to be an unequaled masterpiece of garden design. The temple is of high importance to the Japanese culture, as it was here that the tea ceremony, Noh, flower arrangement and ink painting found new levels of refinement. The temple started life in 1482 as a retirement villa for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who desired a place to retreat from the turmoil of the civil war. Despite it’s name, the shogun’s ambition to cover the building in silver was never realised. Walkways lead through the gardens, which include meticulously raked cones of white sand (said to be symbolic of mountains and a lake), tall pines and a pond in front of the temple.
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