So I did a bunch of sightseeing today: was among first 10 people to get into Kinkaku-ji, so it was nice to get that picture-perfect view of the lake + temple before it got swarmed with tourists. The rest of the walk is average. Ryoan-ji was very pleasant; had not idea what the rock garden was going to be like, but sitting down and just staring at it for a while almost made me feel some Zen connection. Rest of the landscape garden was really nice too. Kozan-ji was really hard to get to, mostly because the 8 bus only runs once an hour and Google maps got the bus station location wrong so I waited 1.5 hrs for the bus. For the record, there's the Kyoto City 8 bus as well as a JR bus from Kyoto Station that go to Kozan-ji; Google doesn't seem to know about the JR (source: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3940.html). Aside from the long commute though, it was really nice. I didn't expect to get to experience the more mountainous parts of Japan, and the whole area was like a large forest - kind of reminded me of the Redwoods.
My favorite temple so far is actually Ginkaku-ji. I live 30min walk away so I went on a weekday and was the first person inside. I preferred it over all the others because it was just a perfect example of Japanese harmony, the temples meshing together with the surrounding nature. It also just felt so well-curated and was just the right size to appreciate everything.
Also went to Kobe Gavly Burger - I got the original Kobe Gavly burger. They said their patty is a mix of Kobe and Wagyu beef (which is kind of weird since Kobe is a type of Wagyu?). The 2000yen one was Wagyu steak (not patty) inside a bun which didn't seem that appealing to me. Burger was really good (not too large), better than most I've had in the states. I don't think I could tell that the beef was special or anything though.
Although I must admit, part of what made my day was this:
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Edit: Nanzen-ji grounds are nice, lots of trees and nature, but Kozan-ji tops it. Only unique thing at Nanzen-ji is the aqueducts. Surrounding neighborhood is really nice and peaceful though. I'd also recommend the Heian Shrine gardens (you have to pay to get in). Pretty large with lots of interesting nature to see. I expect it's amazing when flowers are blooming. Kiyomizu is very touristy. Mostly interesting because its so large. I was more interested in all the free yatsuhashi samples nearby though, and all the other food stalls.
Thanks for the recs guys!
Edited by t3hg0suazn - 7/30/14 at 8:10am