Yoshimine-dera is a large temple located on the side of the western hills of Kyoto. It was founded in 1029 by priest Gensan, and quickly received imperial patronage in 1034. Destroyed during the Onin war, the temple was later rebuilt; most of today's buildings date from the late 17th to 20th century.
The closest station is Nishi Muko (西向日), about 8km away. The distance should shield the temple from hordes of tourists, but Yoshimine-dera is well know for its cherry trees and is thus a major spot for hanami every April. The temple also has a commanding view of Kyoto, especially from its higher sections. Reaching the latter can be a bit hard not only because the slope is steep but also because you will have to find the right path. Keep the map you received at the entrance!
A less well-known point of this temple is an old pine tree that consists almost only of a single branch which runs supported over the ground on about 20 meters. It may well be the largest of its kind in Japan. It was named the "pine of the playing dragon" (遊龍の松) because, well, it looks like a very long dragon. Amazingly, the pine, which is 600 years old, used to be even longer: it reached 50 meters in 1994. It was cut after some parasites were found to threaten the whole tree.
These features and the large number of different buildings of different styles make Yoshimine a nice target for a day walk in the western part of Kyoto, more precisely in the Oharano (大原野) valley. There are several other temples in the area that are worth visiting, but keep in mind that some of them may be perched in the hills ;) One easy target is Sanko-ji, which can be reached by the upper gate of Yoshimine or even by an old path starting just before Yoshimine's parking lot at the bottom of the valley (great tip when Yoshimine-dera is packed!). If you use the old path, plan ahead to have the exact change to put in the upper gate money box as it may not be manned (Yoshimine's entrance fee is 500円). Another nice stop is Jurin-ji which is along the road to Yoshimine-dera.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Sanko-ji 三鈷寺 (180m)
External links: Website, ウィキペディア, Wikipedia, Wikipédia, Kyoto Navi, Trip Advisor, Kyoto Design, 京都風光, Marutake, そうだ京都, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 西京, Nishikyo, Yoshimine-dera, 善峯寺, temple, 寺院, 仏閣