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Japan 2016 : Part 12 – Ginkakuji, Philosopher’s Path & Eikando Night Illumination

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the very beginning, click here.

After lunch, it was just after 12pm, so it was right about time to set off for Ginkakuji. The plan was to start at Ginkakuji, walk along the Philosopher’s Path, and end up in Eikando for the night illumination.

The temple opens their doors at 6pm, and tickets start selling at about 5.30pm. Reports say that the queue for tickets are extremely long, as Eikando is one of the more popular temples to have this night event.

So we boarded the bus for another long ride across the city. Ginkakuji and the other nearby attractions are located in an area called Higashiyama in the east of Kyoto. If you are doing a whistle-stop tour to see Kyoto in 2 days, usually Higashiyama is visited together with Kiyomizudera just to the south.

Anyway, the bus stop is quite a distance to Ginkakuji, so there’s a stretch of walking, with shops along the way as with most major temples. As usual my daughter bought her favourite green tea (matcha) ice-cream for JPY 200 (she had one almost every day for 8 days straight).

The entrance to Ginkakuji is very impressive, with the 3-storey high hedge wall, like you are in a maze.

Ginkakuji is also known as the Silver Pavilion, modeled after the earlier and more impressive Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion (both have rather similar names, they are easily confused together). Although both buildings look alike, that where the similarity ends. The other one is on a beautiful lake and is painted gold, this one looks like a pale imitation.

But just like the other more famous counterpart, there’s a lake and zen garden. Follow the designated walking path and you see the whole works.


(that mound is made with loose gravel, if you can believe it)


(they try hard to keep cats from turning this into a giant litter box)

So, well, not really much to see here. So on we move to the next place.

From Ginkakuji there’s a walkway beside a river called the Philosopher’s Path leading to Eikando. From most websites it looks straight and short. But in reality it is almost 3 km long and meanders a lot. On the upside, you can enjoy the fall foliage along the way. There are many lesser-known temples, cafes and even an art gallery to interest you beside the path.

We were still quite early so we stopped by this English café to have some coffee and cake.

This place is run by an elderly Japanese couple and the décor is very nice, but is rather pricey.

By the time we reached Eikando just before 5pm, this was the queue. That’s the ticketing booth in a distance, with the white sign noting the opening times. By the time the booth opened an hour later, the queue was more than 3 times longer than this.

Eikando is a large temple complex with many buildings, and like most temples, they have a zen garden and lake in the middle. During autumm, they light up the trees and building façade, making it quite beautiful.

Night tickets cost JPY 600 and is sold separately from day time tickets. Is Eikando worth a visit? Well, you should catch one temple night illumination, either here or another one. Other than taking some good photos, there isn’t much else to do or see, unless you want to enter the temple to pray.

Time for dinner. From Eikando, it’s a long walk to the nearest train or bus stop, so we boarded a cab (lots of cabs drop off passengers here). Our destination was back to Nishiki / Teramachi, to try Ichiran Ramen. The cab dropped us off at the nearest entrance as the place is for pedestrian only. We still had problems finding the place, as it was tucked way in small side street. But when we finally found it, the queue was very long. The staff told us it was at least an hour’s wait. In the cold weather and wind…

We were quite tired and hungry, so we gave up the idea of trying the famous restaurant. Fortunately, there’s another (less famous) ramen shop across the road.

It turned out to be a good deal, each ramen set comes with a separate bowl of meat and rice.

And so ended another very, very long day in Kyoto, which also happened to be our last. And tomorrow, its onward to Osaka…

Next – Tenjinbashi in Osaka.

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