Saturday, September 18, 2010

Philosopher's Path - Thinking AND Sight-seeing. Perfect

31st October, 2006 - I was going to throw up a quick post on the Philosopher’s Walk (Tetsugaku no Michi). The walk is synonymous with the philosopher, Nishida Kitarō (1870 – 1945 AD), being reportedly the path taken for his daily walk. Now who was he, that it really mattered where he walked? He was born in 1870, and graduated from Tokyo University in 1894... and went on to become the Professor of the Philiosophy department in the Kyōto University. Indeed he became synonymous with the Kyōto school of philosophy, and one of the most influential people in the founding of modern Japanese Philosophy.

Being born following the Meiji Restoration, he had the luxury to explore cultural and philosophical conjunctions (and exclusions) of eastern and western thought. He pursued the contradictions of opposites, and the ensuing tension that he observed; seeking to explore the meaning of nothingness in terms of the self... Hmmmm, heavy going.

It is also interesting that his openess to consider western logical constructs had essentially marked him as a dangerous subversive in the years leading up to WWII; then following the war he was considered a right-wing nationalist. He died however, just before WWII was to come to an end, in June 1945. You just can't satisfy all of the people all of the time....

Despite the complex, and to some extent contreversial history of Nishida Kitarō, the path that now remembers him is a convenient and pleasant means of walking the foothills of the Higashiyama mountains between Ginkaku-ji and the more southern temples of Eikandō and Nanzen-ji. It follows the canal that runs along the boundary of urban Kyōto and the eastern mountains.

The path taken is shown below... it takes about 20-30 mins to walk if you don't stop alone the way... but that hardly seems worthwhile... There's so much to see along the way, and I'm sure as Kitarō found, it's better to enjoy the journey than worry about the destination. It was a great afternoon's walk for us, and one that was made perfect by the quick diversions to look at some of Kyōto's beautiful smaller temples (though this is perhaps best seen in the Autumn month of November).

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As you can see, it's relatively convenient to return to Heian Jingu..


  1. I started reading your articles.
    It is good to have another place in one's life, like Japan for you. France could have been the one for me, but I was not able to have enough time to understand the land.
    I will come visit this blog again. Muravej

  2. Thanks for the feedback.

    Definitely I think that Japan is my own little piece of peace and beauty, where I can escape and immerse and relax myself. Of course - it is also where I go for holidays, and there's a big difference in going somewhere for a holiday, and living (and working) there.

    I have to say that it has also changed since we've had our child... and eventually I will blog about this.

    I'd like to think we could all find our "special" place to go to. If only they were easier to get to.