Renge-ji is a small temple in the north-east of Kyoto city. Despite its minimalist size, it is very well known as a top spot for watching the autumn colours. According to the pamphlet Renge-ji was founded in 1662 by Imaeda Chikayoshi but other sources state that it was originally near the current location of Kyoto Station, and that Imaeda-san only moved it here and "revived" it long after its total destruction during the Onin war (1467~1477).
The main hall garden is of the "pond" style, formally known as "chisenkai kaiyuushiki garden" (池泉回遊式庭園). The only island stone of the pond represents a ship and is called "funaishi", which means... ship stone ;-) Among the numerous colourful maple trees surrounding the pond stands a uniquely-shaped lantern with a conical "hat" and heart-shaped orifices. An interesting subject for a photo but you need to place your camera at the right position in the main hall in order to see it reasonably well, as it is always a bit hidden by the maple trees. The final zen touch of the garden is given by the stone bridge and its nearby standing stone. The slightly tilted pine tree trunk that is close to the hall on the right is also part of the garden's design. Finally, a tsukubai (蹲い) water basin is expectedly located at the extreme left of the hall. It has a small extra piece of bamboo on which the handle of the ladle can rest, a not-so-common feature for a tuskubai.
The garden extends to the right and a path leads to a separate hall. Note that it is not allowed to photograph there because it would block the narrow path for the other visitors. When leaving the temple, have a look at the kitchen located next to the place where you remove your shoes. You can see two large pots, but AFAIK those were not used to cook rice, the latter requiring some more specific and elaborate heating system (a good example of which can be see in the Sumiya).
Ooops, I forgot to mention the front garden. Well, that's the place where most tourists stop in autumn to take pictures of each other in front of low-hanging maple foliage. A bit crowded for my taste, but on the right (when you enter the temple) is a large ginkgo tree which leaves a beautiful carpet of yellow leaves in autumn.
Nearby is another great temple for the momiji season: Ruriko-in. However that one is not always open so you'll have to check on the web in advance.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Hōdō-ji 宝幢寺 (430m), Miyakehachiman-jingū 三宅八幡神宮 (670m), Rurikō-in 瑠璃光院 (800m), Sekizanzen-in 赤山禅院 (920m), Shūgaku-in Imperial Villa 修学院離宮 (1.2km)
External links: ウィキペディア, Kyoto Navi, Trip Advisor, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, そうだ京都, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 左京区, Sakyo-ku, 蓮華寺, Renge-ji, temple, 寺院, 仏閣