Japan Trip - Kyoto Day 3 - Sannen-zaka and the Philosopher's Path

>> Tuesday, June 15, 2010

After spending the morning at Kiyomizu-dera, we walked north through a string of back streets and temples in East Kyoto toward an area known as the Philosopher's Path. First though, we had to navigate two sets of steps known as Sannen-zaka ("Three-year slope") and Ninen-zaka ("Two-year slope"). It's said that if you slip and fall on the first, you'll have three years of bad luck; to slip and fall on the second brings two years of bad luck. Fortunately for us, none of us fell--which was a minor miracle, considering how many scrapes and tumbles Jo took as she skipped, danced, and otherwise blithely meandered her way through Japan.

The steps proved photogenic, and the narrow pedestrian avenue between them was lined with interesting little shops and restaurants in older style Japanese buildings, reminiscent of the Edo period.


These little fellows lined the path to a shop that specialized in collectibles based on Studio Ghibli anime like Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo.

A row of tanuki welcome visitors to the restaurant at the top of these steps. Tanuki are Japanese raccoon dogs reputed to be mischievous and jolly, masters of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absent-minded. They have one distinctly prominent feature that's a bit delicate to discuss here on a family blog, but if you look at the tanuki there in the bottom of the picture, you'll see that those two round things underneath its belly are not its feet...

Beyond the sannen-zaka and ninen-zaka are a string of temples, making East Kyoto worthy of a day or more of wandering about.

I believe this is the entrance to Nanzen-ji.

I loved this beautiful old tree. The Japanese take such pride in cultivating and preserving natural works of art like this, and this tree clearly had a place of pride at the front of this establishment.

There were even posts to hold the branches up. If you look closely, you can also see a wire that comes down out of the tree and wraps around a pad around the branch to help support it. An awful lot of work goes into preserving trees like this, even in places that aren't parks or sanctuaries.

A big torii gate down a busy street.

And a smaller concrete one hidden down a side street.

The entrance to a temple near the beginning of the Philisopher's Path.

A neat little tunnel under the road. Jo's listening for tengu, Japanese monster spirits that, oddly, only made noises when she was turned away from her father.

A quiet little area on the way to the Philosopher's Path.

And, finally, the Philosopher's Path. The name of the two-kilometer path refers to Nishida Kitaro, a Japanese university professor who used to take a daily walk down this path in the 1930s and 1940s.

The path runs along the length of a small, slow stream, which offered beautiful reflections of the carefully tended flora along its banks.

Along the way are a few shops and restaurants, but it's a remarkably non-commercial stroll for a Japanese touristy spot. We saw more neighborhoods and homes than we did businesses along the way.

An ad for one of the few businesses we did see--although we have no idea what it's advertising. After a pleasant afternoon of walking Kyoto's eastern temple district we hit Pontocho one more time trying to catch more glimpses of geisha. Afterward we grabbed dinner and then went back to our great Kyoto youth hostel, K's House, for a relaxing evening of three-handed spades. A lot of walking that tuckered us out, but all in all a really great day in Kyoto.


tanita davis June 15, 2010 at 11:18 AM  

Oh, I hope you got a Totoro!!! I have a deep and abiding love for Studio Ghibli - I've got my own Totoro on my desk, and am putting a big Totoro sticker on the wall in my guest room. (Finally talked myself out of caring if people think that's weird.)

Laughing at Jo listening for the tengu. Somehow I'm sure Daddy had nothing whatsoever to do with the timing of the tengu calls. Nothing at all.

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