The Philosophers Walk, or Philosophers Path, is a heavily photographed pedestrian path located in Kyoto. This pedestrian path is lined with cherry trees and located along the side of a canal that runs between Nanzenji and Ginkakuji. The name of the Philosophers Walk was taken directly from an influential Japanese philosopher. While the path itself is not terribly accessible, the newer side street next to it is wheelchair accessible.
Many tourists to this area make their way along the path for its great beauty throughout summer as well as the beautiful blooms throughout the spring. The whole pathway takes around 30 min. to walk at a steady pace but many people, including those with disabilities or mobility issues, may take longer. There are plenty of sites and photo opportunities along the way as well as benches to take a rest.
The Philosophers Walk is said to have been named after Nishida Kitaro who was a philosopher at Keio University. It was said that he would walk along this path every day for guided meditation. This would be a fitting area for meditation as it passes by many temples and shrines as well as offers beautiful views of Daimonji.
The Philosophers Walk is an excellent attraction to enjoy in Kyoto especially if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. Through early April when the trees are in blossom you can get one of the most beautiful views of the Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in the whole of the city.
The path is located in eastern Kyoto and will require taking the bus (the closest subway station, Keage, is over 1km from the path). To start at the south near Nanzenji, use the Miyanomaecho stop. Nearer to Ginkakuji at the northern end is Ginkakuji-mae. While not every bus is accessible, Kyoto has been putting considerable effort into accessible travel and over 80% of buses are now wheelchair accessible.
The first accessibility issue facing travelers to the Philosopher’s Walk is getting there. If you start from the Keage subway station, you must walk 1km before reaching the start of the path at Nanzenji. There are bus stops near both ends of the path, but they are 100-200 meters from the pathway.
If you start near Nanzenji, the incline up to the path is rather steep and may be difficult to reach the top. Once up, there are no further hills.
The path itself is a series of stone blocks running along the side of a canal. The path is very uneven and may be difficult to traverse in a wheelchair or with a cane. There is no guard rail next to the canal, so those who are not steady on their feet will need to be careful. To get to the path from the adjacent street, you must go up a curb. Most are cut, but at least one section near Nanzenji has no curb cut. 2-3 meters from the actual path, a small street runs next to the path and is a very acceptable alternative for those using wheelchairs or wanting more even footing. The occasional bridge allows for closer views of the trees and canal (though some bridges are a bit worn out).
Being 2km long may prove difficult for those with walking difficulties. As there isn’t much change in the scenery, you may just want to see a bit of it and move on. Since Ginkakuji is the most famous temple in the area (and it has many food/souvenir stalls), it might be best for those with difficulties walking long distances to get off the bus at the Ginkakuji-mae stop, and just see a portion of the Philosopher’s Walk before or after visiting Ginkakuji.
If you do decide to do the entire path, there are cafes and benches to rest at. Unfortunately, for those in wheelchairs, many – if not most – of the stores and cafes are not accessible.
There are no accessible toilets along the path, so, the toilet at Ginkakuji is the best option.
As with many other places in Kyoto, the Philosopher’s Walk can become very crowded. This generally is the worst during the spring and autumn as it is known for both its cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. The crowds are condensed into a very narrow area and are constantly moving – making a current of people that can be hard to follow.
The amount you want to experience the Philosopher’s Walk will likely vary depending on your mobility. While going the entire length can be enjoyable, it is by no means essential. If you are planning on visiting Ginkakuji, taking a small stroll is more than enough to enjoy the scenery. If you plan on taking the whole path, be prepared for crowds in peak months and the fact that it can be hard to get on the actual path in a wheelchair.
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