Attraction Katsura Imperial Villa, Katsuramisono Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 615-8014 Japan Published on: 29-02-2016
|1 hours 30 mins|
|08:45 AM - 05:00 PM|
Katsura Imperial Villa is good for
- Highly recommended by fellow travellers.
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Why Katsura Imperial Villa is special ?
The Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮 Katsura Rikyū), or Katsura Detached Palace, is a villa with associated gardens and buildings in the western suburbs of Kyoto, Japan (in Nishikyō-ku, separate from the Kyoto Imperial Palace). It is one of Japan's most important large-scale cultural treasures.
Its gardens are a masterpiece of Japanese gardening, and the buildings are even more important, one of the greatest achievements of Japanese architecture. The palace includes a show in ("drawing room"), tea houses, and a strolling garden. It provides an invaluable window into the villas of princes of the Edo period.
The palace formerly belonged to the princes of the Hachijō-no-miya (八条宮) family. The Imperial Household Agency administers it, and accepts visitors by appointment.
What to explore at Katsura Imperial Villa?
Visiting Katsura Imperial Villa, you can admire the villa with a beautiful stroll garden and excellent buildings that include Shoin building and four tea houses that are arranged in the garden.
The Old Shoin was constructed by Prince Toshihito. It is composed of rooms with nine, ten, and fifteen tatami, and has ceilings supported by wooden slats.
Compared to the Old Shoin, The Middle Shoin appears stiff. It is arranged in an L-shape, and at one end there is a tokonoma, and to its right there is a chigaidana. The walls of the tokonoma and chigaidana are decorated with ink paintings of landscapes, as well as the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.
The New Palace features a large hipped-and-gabled roof, as well as a veranda enclosed by wooden shutters. The design of the New Palace is more structured than the Old and Middle Shoin, and is composed of an eight-mat room, a six-mat room, and a three-mat area that are arranged into an L-shape. There is a coffered ceiling, and an alcove containing a large window. The Katsura Shelves are especially noteworthy, and are located in the corner opposite of the entrance.
Within the garden, there were originally five teahouses. However currently there are only four standing. The Geppa-rō has a view overlooking the pond.
Across the pond from the Geppa-rō is the Shōkin-tei. The pavilions contrast one another, as the Geppa-rō is active and situated on higher ground looking down onto the pond whereas the Shōkin-tei is less active and elevated not far above the water level.
Leaving the Shōkin-tei, one follows up a “mountain path” to the Shōka-tei, as cherry trees surround it. It is a small teahouse that is situated at the highest point in the garden. It has the clearest view of the main house through the trees.
As the path away from the Shōka-tei splits, the right leads to the front lawn of the main house, while the left leads to the Onrin-dō, a small ancestral shrine.
How to get to Katsura Imperial Villa?
Katsura Rikyu is located in western Kyoto, a 15 minute walk from Katsura Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line. Alternatively, you can reach the villa by Kyoto City Bus number 33 from Kyoto Station in about 20 minutes. Get off at "Katsura Rikyu-mae" bus stop. The bus ride costs 240 yen and is not fully covered by the Kyoto City Bus One Day Card.
- Extreme refinement in Japanese Landscaping
- Wonderful architecture
- Beautiful Gardens and Tea Houses
- Placid scenic garden beauty
- The best garden in Kyoto
Katsura Imperial Villa, Katsuramisono Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 615-8014 Japan
Tips for you
The tours are not organized on the following days: (1) Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays, with the following exceptions: • Tours are available on Saturdays in March, April, May, October and November (including Saturdays that are also holidays). • Tours are available on the third Saturday of each month (even if that day is also a holiday). (2) From December 28 to January 4 of new year (3) Any day when Imperial Court functions are scheduled or other unavoidable circumstances occur.Timming
The imperial villas in Katsura are an absolute must for anybody who is interested in classical Japanes Architecture and Gardens. To get there is not so easy, because you have to obtain a permission for your visit and you have to turn up in person (with your passport in hand) at the Royal Household Information Office at the Palace Compound in Central Kyoto. Foreigners can get an appointment at short notice while Japanese citizens have to wait their turn (which apparently can take some time and cannot be predicted). Once you have your permit the entrance is free and all you have to do is to be there in time (having taken a Hankyu train from Shijo Station). What you will find exceeds all expectations. The exiled German architect Bruno Taut brought this ensemble to international attention in the 1930s comparing it to the Parthenon in terms of its importance for World Architectural Heritage and he did not exaggerate. The whole idea of this site is of course totally decadent but the refinement of buildings and grounds is without comparison and the beauty of it all intoxicating. Unfortunately you are not allowed inside the buildings, but if you have studied the plans beforehand you get a fair idea of the relationship of internal and external spaces. So far so amazing- the only thing that detracts from this wonder is the tour that you are given: Our group consisted of approx. 20 Japanese and 5 or so Western visitors. You have to watch a video beforehand (nothing like a virtual experience before you see the real thing...) which also serves as a detailed instruction of the dos and don’ts. Once you are out there you are followed closely by a secret service style heavy, who constantly asks you to move faster and grumbles when you take photographs other than the obvious ones. Step off one of the stepping stones and he will bark at you, start lingering around in order to get a picture of the pavillions without all the other people in the foreground and he will virtually manhandle you along. Given the usual level of politeness in Japan this guy was acting like a hooligan. What exacerbated the situation in our case was a tour guide who decided to shout his comments at the top of his voice preferably across bits of lake. If you don’t understand at all, Japanese can be quite a hard language and this guy sounded like an angry corporal in front of his marines. The screaming man in front and the growling dog behind were so incongruous with the sublime environment of this site, that it really started to get to me after a while. One is also issued with an audio guide and if you listen into that it provides useful information and welcome distraction from these two characters. Why the Imperial Household has decided to first invite the country’s visitors into this marvel so generously and then to ruin the experience with this very unusaul –and totally untypical- performance remains a total enigma- maybe the site is really run by the Military due to its Royal affiliation. However let our experience not discourage you. It is probably the most amazing garden ensemble there is. It is currently a little over-renovated in places, but I trust that the super-polish of newly constructed surfaces will wear off a little with time.