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Walking Route

Shisen-do, Manshu-in & Shugaku-in
Sanjusangen-do Temple to Gion
Chushojima and Fushimi
Kamigamo Shrine area
Old Capital Walking

Shisen-do, Manshu-in & Shugaku-in

One area of Kyoto that offers both rustic, interesting rural atmosphere and serene beauty is the area northeast of Kita Shirakawa and Kitaoji. Here, in a few short hours the visitor will see terraced, open fields, old farm villas, quiet country lanes and wonderful views. The highlights of this special area of Kyoto are the tranquil worlds of Shisen-do, Manshu-in, and the imperial retreat of Shugaku-in. With the new leaves coloring the mountains this month, this area will be particularly beautiful. The azaleas will also be in full bloom.

The following walking tour has been laid out such that the visitor walks from Ichijoji Station on the Eiden Line (departing from Demachiyanagi Stn) to Shisen-do, Manshu-in, Shugaku-in, and then finally back to Shugaku-in Station. This south to north direction allows for the best views of the eastern mountains, which will be the backdrop for most of the walk and lit up with fresh green, young leaves. Walk out of Ichijoji Station, turn left and walk along Manshuin-dori and cross Kita Shirakawa-dori.

Shisen-do is one of Kyoto's most famous residences. It was initially the home of a retired samurai, poet and recluse, and has a Chinese garden and many man-made waterways. Directly next door, at Nobotoke-an there are five beautiful tea arbors, where for the price of admission you can enjoy a bowl of matcha tea. Walking out of Shisen-do go left, down the slope, for about 20 meters and then take the first right (a narrow roadway heading north). Follow this road until the end (halfway down this road, above the road a bit, on the right hand side, you will see an old, abandoned thatch roofed farm house, a rare site in the city these days, still standing in all its lonely magnificence). At the end of the road turn right.

After turning right, walk along this narrow road as it swings in a wide curve to the left. Here, on your left, you will have your first fine view to the northwest. Walk a bit further and you will notice that the road forks. Here, be sure to take the right fork (the left fork slopes down). After a bit you will be walking along a stream. Follow the stream and then cross it. On your left you will see a large, serene flower and herb garden. Walk along the garden and then take the first left, a gravel road leading through a stone torii (Shinto gate). Halfway to the gate pause and take in the view to the left over the garden and across to the southwest. This is one of the most unusual views in Kyoto, offering a totally green and wild view across the valley. There's not one hint of the city in sight.

After you past through the torii you enter the shaded and stately Manshu-in temple grounds, bordered on both sides by newly green maple trees, moss and stillness. Manshu-in is well worth visiting for its tranquil sand gardens and exquisitely crafted buildings. For all its beauty, you'll usually find few visitors here. Across from the temple is a small shrine surrounded in sand-swept grounds and bordered by a big pond. The tiny restaurant in the shrine grounds serves soba (buckwheat noodles), matcha, etc.

After leaving Manshu-in walk on the road that fronts the temple entrance. Follow it around the corner (on the left again are a number of fine views, that have a distinctly European feel) and then straight on to the river/stream. Turn left here and go down to the next bridge. At the bridge, turn right and go straight. After a few meters, you will see a distant view of the eastern mountains across wide, rising fields that form part of the Shugaku-in villa complex. After about 100 meters, just before you get to the imposing gates of Shugaku-in, you will notice an old wooden gate/tower on your left. Pause here and just have a quick look inside the garden on the right, where you will see two very large stone Buddhas in sitting meditation.

Finally, go on to Shugaku-in and enter the gates of this very green and very immense private retreat of past and present emperors. Remember you need special permission to enter, which you must obtain in advance from the Imperial Household Agency in the Old Imperial Palace Grounds. After touring Shugaku-in, walk straight out of the gate and downhill until you reach Kita Shirakawa-dori. Turn left here and walk down a bit and then cross over onto Kitayama-dori. Shugaku-in Station is about 50 meters west, on the south side of the street.