Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto: Secretly Known as Cat Path

Philosopher's Walk in early summer

夏の風景 ホタルの乱舞 — Philosopher’s Walk in early summer with a lot of fireflies (PHOTOGRAPH.PRO )

Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto — which is a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing in spring and red leaves in autumn. But there is something more to attract visitors to this walk. It’s secretly known as Cat Path, too.

Philosopher’s Walk

Philosopher’s Walk was constructed in 1890, as a maintenance path when Lake Biwa channel was completed in Kyoto, Japan. Originally, it’s called Literary Path and in 1972, locals gave another name Philosopher’s Walk as it was used daily by famous philosophers like Kitaro Nishida who is famous for his book An Inquiry into the Good and Hajime Tanabe who had an acquaintance with Heidegger on their commute to Kyoto University.

An Inquiry into the Good by Kitaro Nishida

An Inquiry into the Good by Kitaro Nishida (Amazon)

The Philosopher’s Walk is a pleasant stone path through the northern part of Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. The path follows a canal which is lined by hundreds of cherry trees. Every early April these trees begin to bloom, locals and a plenty of visitors gather and enjoy viewing its beauty and having a good time under them. These leaves turn into green in early summer and so refreshing, in autumn they turn to red which is fantastic. In winter, it gets covered by snow, so you can enjoy the amazing view and walking all year round.

GINKAKUJI TEMPLE in autumn with red leaves around

GINKAKUJI TEMPLE listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1994 (YACHIYO)

About 1.2 miles long, the path begins around Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) and ends in the neighborhood of Nanzenji.

Nanzenji covered with snow in winter

南禅寺 雪景色 — Nanzenji covered with snow in winter (blog.goo.ne.jp)

And through this walk, very likely you would meet several or more cats on the way. They are feral cats, but some of them have shiny coat, someone may be taking care of them. They are definitely one of the attractions this spot can offer now.

A stray cat on Philosopher's Walk

A stray cat on Philosopher’s Walk (pupa.cocolog-nifty.com)

300 Cherry Trees

Philosopher's Walk with cherry blossom

哲学の道 桜 — Philosopher’s Walk with cherry blossom (imamiya.jp)

In 1920, Japanese painter Kansetsu Hashimoto and his wife Yone donated 300 cherry tree saplings to Kyoto city. Yone suggested Kansetsu to doing so as the way of appreciation for his great success as a painter to a city. They had so much respect and gratitude for where they lived, the environment which made them possible to be successful.

White Cat with Red Peony by Kansetsu

橋本関雪「麗日」(昭和15) — Graceful Day by Kansetsu Hashimoto (Twitter @aoi_skmt)

The animals Kansetsu painted to look as if they were humans. In a painting, softness and hardness put together as cat’s soft fur and his sharp eyes, tender peony petals and firm leaves. That contrast leaves a strong impression.

Brown Tabby Cat by Kansetsu Hashimoto

橋本関雪「清昼」(昭和16) Kansetsu Hashimoto (Twitter @aoi_skmt)

Benefits of Walking

Egyptian Mau Cat Walking on Grass

Egyptian Mau Cat Walking on Grass (CatsAnimals.com)

Not just domestic visitors, but also a lot of foreign visitors enjoy this path, too. Surely canals and trees make a perfect environment for a walking. Walking has a lot of benefit as it lightens mood, strengthens muscles, improves sleep. All of them we need desperately in this modern hectic world. Also it slows mental decline and lowers Alzheimer’s risk.

Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age. It effects on physically, mentally and psychologically in a great way.

Walking and Thinking Go Hand in Hand

Legs of people walking

Use your feet to commute (johnwin.co.uk)

Why philosophers loved this path, there’s a reason. Just as we described the benefits of walking above, walking not just lightens up mood, but it clears up the mind really well. When we walk, we don’t pay much attention for walking itself, our attention is free to wander.

Unlike sitting, walking enhances creative thinking and strokes of insight. Innovative ideas can be formed with this state of mind. We know innately spending time in green spaces such as gardens, parks, forests make us feel refreshed and it actually rejuvenates mental resources.

For a great philosopher Nietzsche, walking was essential for thinking. All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking, he stated in Twilight of the Idols. Also Ernest Hemingway wrote his need for walking in A Movable Feast that he would take a walk when he had finished his work or when he needed to think something throughly. Hemingway is known as a cat lover, so he must had enjoyed this lovely path immensely if he ever had a chance to come.

Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.

Thoreau, Henry David Quotes (goodreads)

References

哲学の道 (Wikipedia)
 12 Benefits of Walking (Arthritis Foundation)
 WHY WALKING HELPS US THINK (THE NEW YORKER)

Related Articles

Creative People Love Cats?: 5 Qualities They Have in Common
 Hemingway Cats: Snowball, Beloved Six-toed Cat
 Cherry Blossom: The Iconic Flower of Japanese Spirit


Originally published at Johnny Times.

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