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Southern Sakyō 左京南部

From Imadegawa to Okazaki | 今出川通り~岡崎公園の左京


"Southern Sakyō" is not so much an actual area as a convenient way to divide the eastern mountains of Kyōto into three sections to discover - Higashiyama to the south, Southern Sakyō in the middle, and Eizan Line in the north.


Taking this analogy from my friend and mentor Damien Douxchamps, Southern Sakyō spans from Imadegawa Street in the north to Sanjō street in the south, or, in places, from Ginkaku-ji in the North to Heian Shrine and Nanzen-ji in the South. All in all, I think this is a geographically helpful division for first learning about where to find what in Kyōto.

Okazaki Park in spring, the modern center of this area of Kyōto.

Along the Philosopher's Walk | 哲学の道

The philosopher's walk is a roughly 2km long strolling stone-paved path along a small canal from Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺) in the north to Eikan-dō (永観堂) in the south, named so because Nishida Ikutarō, a philosopher at nearby Kyoto University loved to take a stroll there. Lined by cherry and maple trees, today the path draws large numbers of visitors, especially during spring and autumn seasons. As with everything in Kyōto, the advice is: rise early, and enjoy the beauty before 8-9AM! From the north, gardens and temples worth visiting in this area are Hakusa Sonsō (白沙村荘), Hōnen-in (法然院), Anraku-ji (安楽寺) and Reikan-ji (霊鑑寺, both only special openings), or a hike up to Daimonjiyama (大文字山) to enjoy a view overlooking Kyōto, and if lucky, until Osaka. Learn more.

Nanzen-ji Area | 南禅寺

The Forest within the Gate. This is the metaphor photographer John Einarsen uses when describing Nanzen-ji. One of the six major Rinzai school Zen monasteries in Kyōto, Nanzen-ji (lit. the "southern Zen temple") lies to the south of the Philosopher's Walk. Entering the main gate, one indeed finds oneself in a forest where, to the surprise of first time visitors, tradition (Zen) meets modernity (an acquaeduct). Visiting Nanzen-ji, whose grounds are open 24/7, is recommended throughout the year. During spring and autumn season, just wake up early and enjoy the temple at 6-7AM, before the crowds arrive. Make suru to visit its many sub-temples open to the public, most notably Tenju-an (天授庵) and Nanzen-in (南禅院), and, if open, Dainei-ken (大寧軒). Learn more.

Okazaki Area | 岡崎公園周辺

Okazaki Park and its surroundings were a major re-development project during the Meiji Area. In a way, this area is where the dream of a 19th-century style "modern" Kyōto can be encountered: spacious parks, museums, zoos, and the seemingly "traditional" Heian Shrine (平安神宮), itself a reconstruction of Kyōto's ancient Imperial palace. Further highlights include: Murin-an (無鄰菴), Okazaki Shrine (岡崎神社), Okazaki Betsuin (岡崎別院), Shōgo-in Monzeki (聖護院門跡). Although always worth a visit, this area is probably the best to enjoy cherry blossoms in KyōtoLearn more.


Hyakumanben, Mt. Yoshida and Mt. Kurotani Area | 百万遍・吉田山・黒谷山

Hyakumanben is a crossing on the north-west corner of Kyoto University. Due the proximity of Kyōto's most prestigious university, a large number of café's and eateries line the streets there. While it's easy to stumble into tourist traps along the more famous areas of the city, here, you most likely get the best value out of your money. Walk through Kyoto University and exit through the main gate, and to the east you will reach Mt. Yoshida. There, Yoshida Shrine (吉田神社), a Shintō shrine with a particularly "pure-Shintō" doctrine waits to be discovered. Across the mountain lies Shinnyo-dō (真如堂), one of my favourite temples in the city From there, it is a short walk through a historic graveyard to reach Mt. Kurotani and Konkai Kōmyō-ji (金戒光明寺), a temple that offers one of the best views on the city. Further areas of interest in this area may include Takenaka Inari Shrine (竹中稲荷神社), a normally unspectacular Shintō shrine that transforms itself during cherry blossom season, and Eishō-in (栄摂院), a hidden spot for autumn foliage. Learn more.

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