I like to go for walks at night. It’s quieter, cooler, and there are fewer people out and about. It gives me a chance to de-stress and get a little exercise while I’m at it. However, I’ve gotten quite bored with my little neighbourhood, so I’ve been jumping on the subway to get to other parts of the city that I don’t know well. Only 4 stops away from me is Keage Station, which is just south of Nanzenji Temple and the Keage Incline. This is about a 10-minute walk from the Philosopher’s Path, a well-known tourist site in Kyoto. Generally speaking, I avoid the big tourist sites during high season (late March – early Dec) but they are really nice to explore at night, when everyone (literally) is gone. So I’ve been walking up and down the Philosopher’s Path and often passing Honen-in Temple, a small atmospheric temple that is just off the street that runs parallel to the path. But it’s a bit creepy and intimidating to walk into a forest graveyard at night, so I’ve always avoided it. Well, not today. Today I was out photographing for World Pinhole Day along the path, and I decided to do a little detour to the temple. What a treat!
There are two paths to the temple, one to the temple proper, one to the cemetery that lies just south to it. The temple itself is famous for it’s beautiful gate, and the wonderfully raked sand gardens that lie inside. But of course I was interested in its cemetery as well, which is located on the slope of a mountain. With massive trees shading the paths, it made for a very atmospheric place to wander around. There are some notable local people interred here, but of course I’m not familiar with them, nor would I know how to find their graves.
This is not an accessible cemetery, as there are stairs everywhere and uneven ground in the upper cemetery, located on the mountainside. The lower, more modern cemetery, appears to be easier to get around. There were some grander monuments here, but I haven’t been able to find more information about who they were for. Another incentive to improve my Japanese, I suppose.
Quality of Monuments: There are a few, larger monuments here, and some with interesting shapes, but the biggest difference between these, and the ones in the lower cemetery, is their weathered look, and moss.
Cemetery Grounds: The cemetery is situated on a slope of a mountain. It’s not that high in elevation, but there are stairs everywhere to get to the different levels. Some parts of the path can be broken or uneven, and there is some debris from the trees scattered throughout.
Visitors: A few tourists were wandering around here (not for very long), plus a handful of people there to visit and/or clean the graves.
Photographer Notes: Lots of dappled light from the trees. It’s a small but atmospheric place.
Cemetery: Honen-in Cemetery
Established: 1680 (temple established, date of cemetery unknown)
Location: 30 Shishigatani, Goshonodan-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8422. It’s not very far from Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavillion) – less than a 10-minute walk south of that temple. If you are walking along the Philosopher’s Path, there will be signs pointing it out along the way.
Notable Internments: Literary scholar and novelist Junichiro Tanizaki (谷崎潤一郎), Japanese-style painter Heihachiro Fukuda (福田平八郎), Economist Hajime Kawakami (河上肇), Philosopher Shuzo Kuki (九鬼周造)
Hours: 24 hours, although it would be very dark in the forest once the sun went down.