I took the bus from Sanjo station across the city to the west side to visit some of the more famous temples over there. The bus ride was longer than expected, but I made friends with a very friendly Brit who sat next to me on the bus. Our first stop was Kinkakuji temple, also known as the golden pavilion.
Kinkakuji is in a beautiful setting, but I thought it was a bit over rated compared with some other temples I visited. I think this temple is very famous for the golden pavilion in the middle of a lake, that was really the only thing to see here. But, it's worth the visit since there are so many other important temples also in the area. You won't feel as though you wasted your time (hour bus ride) getting here if you get to see everything else in the area.
From Kinkakuji, we wandered down the hill to Ryoanji. This temple is famous for its zen garden which contains 15 rocks, though, only 14 of which can be seen from any angle. Upon attaining enlightenment, one would be able to see the 15th rock, or so they say.
While we continued along the road to Ninnaji temple, we accidentally stumbled across Rengeji temple. As we approached the temple, we were invited in by a very friendly monk trying to practice his English. He invited us in and suggested we take photos of the altar area. It was full of beautiful statues and food for offerings.
The monk explained to us that there is a fire ceremony held every year for New Year's where they burn the wishes of people to send the wishes to the gods. Evidently we had just missed it when we came as it had been held that morning (?).
This friendly monk-in-training explained to us the various buddha statues and allowed us to ring the bell. There were no tourists here as this little temple barely makes the map (and has no English information) but it was one of my favorites since we got to meet this monk who explained so much to us.
Then it was on to Ninnaji. While Ninnaji doesn't have a golden pavilion or a famous zen garden, it was my favorite temple of the afternoon just because it was so big and had so many different and interesting features to see. Above you can see the pagoda. Below is another temple area with a roof thatched with tree bark.
This western area of Kyoto is nice, and we spent about 3 hours or so checking out these 4 temples. I would definitely recommend making your way to this side of the city.