Kyoto, Monday 8 April

I got up earlier than usual and rode the metro to Keage station. Kyoto's public transit is much simpler than Tokyo's - the underground is basic, essentially two lines that run at right angles to each other ... but the city suffers the same problem as Tokyo: separate companies. There are two companies running buses in the city, and JR runs a number of rail lines, including the dinky little line I rode yesterday. I currently have a two day pass for the metro, which covers the Metro "and all buses," but not JR lines or "City Buses" which are a different company (don't quote me on this last).

I was at Keage in northern Higashiyama to follow Lonely Planet's "Philosophical Meander" walk. It gets that name from Tetsugaku-no-michi, the Path of Philosophy - a kilometer or so of walkway by a canal lined with cherry trees, one of Kyoto's most famous features. I started out at Konchi-in, a really lovely garden (I say that to all the gardens) based around a couple ponds. (I saw so many temples and gardens today I may be somewhat inaccurate as they blur together, sorry.) There are pictures. Many pictures.

Next was Nanzen-ji, a very large temple complex - big enough and diffuse enough that I wasn't entirely clear when I entered and exited it. The main features of Nanzen-ji were, as far as I could tell, a couple big gates. It was nice enough, but I enjoyed the Nanzen-in sub-temple and its garden considerably more. The Nanzen-ji abbott's quarters were particularly fine: one of those diffuse old-style Japanese houses with two or three courtyards, gardens within the house - all beautifully sculpted. The abbott seems to have lived well. Then I headed up into the hills, just picking a random trail and heading up and up (the whole "Philosophical Meander" skirts the edge of the hills on the east side of town). I was up there perhaps three-quarters of an hour - I saw nothing hugely unusual, and I didn't find any great look-out points, but it was a lovely forest almost completely devoid of people. The only person I encountered the entire time was a Japanese woman of 60 or 65 years who was better equipped to hike than I was.

I managed to walk back out of the hills where I'd started, and carried on by walking over to Eikan-do. Eikan-do is an extensive temple and garden complex, and was probably my favourite place of the day. There are two very different paths, one without shoes through multiple buildings joined by covered wooden pathways, and another through the gardens outside and around the outsides of the buildings. I was actually standing right beside a guy who was walking shoeless on a building verandah - I'd been trying to find the way in. I asked him how he got there, and he laughed because he'd wondered how to get to the gardens. As it turns out, it's quite easy - but the entrance to the walkways is very near the entrance to the whole complex, and you can do a lot of walking before you get back there. I was at Eikan-do for roughly two and a half hours.

I had intended to eat at Hinode Udon, right on my path and highly recommended by Lonely Planet, but they turn out to be closed on alternate Mondays. As I was starving and way late for lunch, I opted for pretty much the next place that was open, a sandwich place. I had chicken rice in an omelette, which was surprisingly good: quite simple, but well done. My judgement may have been influenced by that "starving" part.

A few metres more and I was on the Path of Philosophy, which is indeed truly lovely. It's also littered with temples, and between the two it's quite a popular place. I headed uphill to Anraku-ji, one of several temples that wasn't in my guidebook. Like the others it was quite lovely, but it wasn't a particular stand-out. Next was Reikan-ji, where they weren't sweeping the cherry blossoms off the moss every day - I have no doubt this was intentional and temporary during Hanami, but it meant the moss looked particularly lovely strewn with cherry blossom petals. It looked as if the garden had been planned to have water, but it had clearly been kept dry for a long time as moss had grown into what I thought would have been ponds.

photo: The Path of Philosophy

cherry blossoms and other blooms over a small canal

Honen-in was up next. Again, lovely, but not a stand-out. There were a couple raised tablets of carefully raked sand ... I have no idea what for. I think things like that are sometimes used to enhance moon viewing ... but for that you'd have to be able to see the moon, and this was among high trees.

At the north end of the Path of Philosophy is Ginkaku-ji, one of the city's most famous temples. I passed because it's a large complex and it was a half an hour until closing. I'll head back tomorrow.

In the evening I went back to tourist info at Kyoto station, where I was directed to a local internet cafe. I became a "member" for ¥200, and I can now have my own private internet room, with lounge chair, any time I want. For a small fee. I spent forty minutes there emailing all of you.