Our main plan for our first day in Kyoto was to enjoy the cherry blossoms along Philosopher’s Path (哲学の道). It is one of the most popular places for hanami in Kyoto. It is about 2km long, starting at Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) and ending near Nanzenji. We took the bus from Kiyomizu-dera to Ginkakuji to begin our hanami walk. The path follows a narrow canal and is lined with hundreds of cherry trees, as well as other flowering plants. Near the beginning of the path, there were also a few vendors from which you could buy snacks. We were all very tempted to buy some green tea flavored cream puffs, but we were still full from our kaiseki lunch at 日月庵 Nichi Getsu An, so instead I shared a maccha amazake with my friend and bought (yet another!) sakura soft cream. This second sakura soft cream tasted a lot like sakura mochi. I’m actually not too fond of sakura mochi, so I didn’t enjoy this second soft cream as much.
Ginkakuji is a Zen temple in the mountains. It has a sand garden (Sea of Silver Sand) and also a moss garden, which is especially beautiful. I enjoyed the garden stroll much more than viewing the temple, because honestly, the temple itself isn’t much of a sight!
It is very small, and not silver, so I’m not sure why it was called Ginkakuji, or Silver Pavilion. Supposedly, it was named Ginkakuji to contrast it with the Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, which is actually covered in gold leaf. I probably won’t ever visit Ginkakuji again, but for first-timers, I think it is worth visiting for the gardens alone. If you are visiting during hanami season though, there are no cherry blossom trees in the garden. You’ll have to enjoy the cherry blossoms from Philosopher’s Path instead.
Here is a view of Kyoto from the highest point in the gardens:
After we toured Ginkakuji, we set out on the 2km stroll through Philosopher’s Path. It was very crowded, since the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. There was only a slight breeze, so the petals were not disturbed, but occasionally we could see a few blowing in the wind. The walk was very peaceful!
Spring is the best time to visit Philosopher’s Path. I’ve read it can be rather dull in the autumn. Kyoto is very famous for its red maple leaves, but the leaves of these trees are the standard brown.