Kyoto seems to be crazy full of tourists, selfie sticks everywhere. I read that if you want to have any hope in enjoying any sites you have to be early. One area I wanted to see was the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in the West edge of the city, so I was up at 6:30 to catch a 7:00 train there. I got a bit lost finding it, crossing a river unnecessarily. But in the end I was still one of few people there. The grove is a single path through the forest with tall bamboo trees on either side, it was slightly raining in the morning, but the path felt mostly covered by the tree canopy - it made for a very serene walk. Off of the bamboo forest their is access to the gardens of the temple Tenryu-ji, which is a designated UNESCO heritage site.
At the end of the grove is a path that leads up the hill to Okochi Sanso Garden, which was built by a Japanese period film actor Denjirō Ōkōchi at the grounds of his house. This garden is more of a narrow circuit that ascends the side of the hill it is on. The top of which gives a view back towards Kyoto. The admission into the garden in included tea and a small cake in the (newly built) tea house at the start of the circuit.
From here I met up with the two from yesterday and we worked our way towards Ryōan-ji - the temple famous for it's zen garden, in which there are 15 stones placed in a bed of white stones that are raked each day. The stones are positioned so that they cannot all be observed at once. After some confusion on which bus we were to take, we ended up having to walk a bit far. But given that the periphery of Kyoto is line with temples and shrines there was a bit too easy while walking. By the time we got there the other tourists were starting to be out. It was a bit unfortunate as they are so loud - counting rocks, stomping on the decks, laughing and chatting in their large tour groups - and the garden is supposed to be peaceful! We stayed a while sitting at the edge and eventually there was a lull in people, perhaps between bus arrivals, that we were able to properly enjoy the view.
We grabbed noodles at a place between destinations, in which you order through a machine that gives you a ticket to redeem at the counter. From there we headed to Rokuon-ji, the golden temple. It has burnt down many times over the years, the most current structure was rebuilt in 1955 (last destroyed by a monk in 1950). The exterior reflects the gold-leafed interior which houses a Kannon Bodhisattva statuie. Here the tourists were in full force walking around the grounds, and the sun was getting too hot so we didn't spend too much time. Actually the site did feel a bit touristy since there were a few gift shops in the grounds.
It started to rain so we caught a cab from the temple to head to our next destination, the Garden of Fine Arts. An outdoor gallery by the architect Tadao Ando at the Kyoto Botanical Gardens. The gallery descends by two intertwining ramps to below ground level (to create too minimal presence in the Botanical Garden). And several waterfalls throughout the space all feed into the lowest level pool. On display are ceramic faithful reproductions of various famous European works created by Otsuka Ohmi Ceramics, and sit exposed to the water. The money is actually submerged into the water. It was also free from any tourists, only a few locals. And it was 1/10 - 1/20th the cost of seeing any the other sites: 100 yen ($1.25)! Thankfully the rain cleared as we arrived.
Near dinner we caught the Sanjūsangen-dō temple just before it closes - which had the added benefit that it was quieter. It features 1000 statues of Kannon and 28 statues of various deities. There were no photos allowed inside - so nothing to show here. I wasnt able to grab much of the exterior as they were closing down and we had to leave through the front gates. But it was an impressive sight of so many gold statues lining the long hall. The hall was very long too. It seems at one time there was a tradition for archery competitions to repeatedly hit targets the entire length of the temple. We then headed back to Kyoto Station to break at each of our hotels before dinner (as we had such a full day). When we arrived we decided to quickly explore around the station as there are many floors covered by a large steel+glass canopy. And by chance we ran into 2 of the Taiwanese students from the program who had just arrived to Kyoto from Kanazawa. So we invited them to join us for dinner that evening once they checked in - in which we returned to the pontocho area for Okonomiyaki at one place, and Karaage at another.