Lala Lopez de Leon

Walk with Me: 

The Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku no Michi), Kyoto

by Lala Lopez de Leon

Is it global warming, climate change that had caused the overly extended summer? Well, what else could it be?

Somehow, we knew we couldn’t expect to see autumn colors in Kyoto yet, most unlikely.  Usually, mid-October would be just about the right time to enjoy a bit of chill and perhaps a burst of autumn foliage all over.

But this time, everywhere we went, there was just a bit of a hint of autumn. The color of the surrounding area was still predominantly green.  

I reached Kyoto that sunny Saturday in mid-October to join my brother and sister-in-law visiting from Toronto. They had already been touring Kyoto and Nara on their own, but I promised to be with them that weekend and take them to places they haven’t seen yet.

Tetsugaku-no-Michi or Philosopher’s Path was the perfect choice of place to start the day, like a warm-up for longer walks around Kyoto. I believe the name given to this path defines it, as it is, and we thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely walk.

The Philosopher’s Path was completed in 1890 and then extended in 1912 to its current stretch of 1.8 kilometers. This walking trail runs alongside the Sakura tree-lined shallow irrigation channel with water flowing from the Lake Biwa Canal, and is located between two bridges.

On one end of the Philosopher’s Path, the northern part, is the road leading to one of Kyoto’s seventeen (17) UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites, the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion).

Ginkaku-ji dates back to 1460 when it was originally built as a retirement villa and gardens for the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa.  After his death, the property was converted into a Zen temple and named Jisho-ji.

In contrast to the gorgeous Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), the Ginkaku-ji as a Zen temple is austere, and the surrounding gardens exude elegance in its total serenity.

All three of us practically sighed in unison: it is so peaceful here we can gaze at it for hours.

It was my 6th visit to Kyoto but I think I have only seen a quarter of what it has to offer. Of its 17 world heritage sites, I have so far seen only five (5) of them.

Well, there’s one or more reasons to go visit again.  I know for sure that my brother and sister-in-law are already planning their next visit!

Walk with Me: 

Kasumigaseki Area

by Lala Lopez de Leon

September 6, 2023

Almost everyone who has been living in Japan for a long time would know that the area of Kasumigaseki is associated with Japanese government bureaucracy. This area in Chiyoda-ku is where you find most of the Cabinet ministry offices.

Just right above the Ginza Line Toranomon Station, among a number of access points, is a vast expanse of open space leading to Kasumigaseki Building, considered the first office skyscraper in Tokyo. It does look imposing, mesmerizing even, as you step out of the escalator on to the street level, as you approach it! It certainly dwarfs the next door office building where I go to work now.

I look at it with envy, hoping I had my office there instead! There are offices that somewhat remind me of home. The Asian Development Bank Institute and the Asian Development Bank (headquarters in Manila) have their offices here.

While it is still hot and humid, for which Tokyo summer is well known for, it seems somehow easy to imagine how the scenery around here would change when Autumn comes. I would think people who come to office around here are blessed with this sort of oasis in their midst.

But I do get to enjoy Kasumigaseki Building’s cafés and restaurants. Their Kasumi Dining offers a lot of options: from very traditional Japanese or “Washoku” to the ubiquitous Pronto café that serves pasta too, and in between, the exotic Thai, Korean, Indian cuisine, etcetera that have now joined mainstream restaurant offerings.

Why isn’t Filipino cuisine part of the mainstream in Tokyo, anyway? Sayang!!

Well, that’s another story or topic to explore. Perhaps, our readers would want to share their opinion on this matter?

Walk with Me: Tabi-no-Hakubutsukan (Tabi Museum)

by Lala Lopez de Leon

Shintomicho, Chuo-ku

June 28, 2023

Today’s temperature definitely screamed of the start of summer! It’s a particularly busy morning for me – running errands and preparing the required documents for my new job.

I was so looking forward to the afternoon, expecting the pace to go much slower.

A very short walk from Exit #2 of Shintomicho Station on the Yurakucho Line leads to a most modest, unassuming old wooden building of the Onoya Sohonten – the location of the Tabi-no-Hakubutsukan.

By now everyone knows what Tabi Socks are, and in English, they are sometimes referred to as the Split Toe Socks. You see them worn by men or women when dressed in Kimono on special occasions, or in cultural performances such as Kabuki. These days you also see Split Toe Shoes in fashion that are obviously inspired by the Tabi.

Onoya Sohonten was founded in the Anei Period (1772-1781), originally located in Mita, but moved to its current location in Shintomicho in 1849. This makes the shop about 250 years old, and it is now run / managed by the 7th Generation Master of tabi-making in this establishment.

Kabuki actors have been patronizing the Tabi produced by Onoya Sohonten since the days of the Kabuki in the Shintomiza theatre and until it has moved to Kabukiza in Higashi-Ginza.

A lady in the shop told of the interesting story of the humble beginnings of the now world-famous Bridgestone tire and rubber company. 

Its founder, an enterprising young man, specialized in making Tabi. He later created the Jika-Tabi, socks with rubber soles used as work shoes; which then led to the development of the rubber shoes business. Using the resources accumulated from the Jika-Tabi and rubber shoes business, he developed the rubber tire industry, the first of such kind then in Japan. Indeed, a pioneer that was borne out of the Tabi making business.

This wooden structure that houses Onoya Sohonten was completed in the late Taisho Period and is officially recognized as a Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Property. 

There’s so much history in this old shop, and in Shintomicho, and in a lot more other establishments and towns all over Japan!  

And so, our walks to discovering such awe-inspiring places will continue!

Today’s accomplishment: 10,213 steps!