Katsura Imperial Villa 桂離宮
One of the finest examples of Japanese architecture and landscaping
Katsura Rikyu is a former villa belonging to the imperial family, constructed in the 17th century. It is set in immaculately landscaped grounds dotted with teahouses. To visit the villa, you must apply to join one of the regularly scheduled daily tours.
- The four teahouses, each an exquisite example of Japanese architecture
- The bamboo moon-viewing pavilion
- The subtle differences in the lanterns and hand washbasins along the strolling path
- The free tour, but making your reservation online ahead of time is highly recommended
How to Get There
From Kyoto Station , take the Hankyu line to Katsura Station. The villa is a 15-minute walk from there.
A favorite of architects worldwide
The spacious garden and the architecture of the teahouses dotted throughout blend perfectly according to the highest aesthetic standards. Famous names in architecture and design including German architect Bruno Taut have expressed great admiration for Katsura Rikyu.
A trip through the islands
In earlier days, visitors viewed the scenery of the spacious pond and its many islands from a boat. This is why the bridges spanning the pond are arched to enable the passing of boats. These days, you can enjoy the garden while strolling around the pond.
Exemplifying the highest aesthetic ideals
Each of the teahouses is built in a way that it is almost hidden, unseen by the visitor until they are just upon it. Each structure has subtle and rustic details that enhance the highest principle of the wabi-sabi aesthetic and in keeping with the tea ceremony's goal of blending the natural with the spiritual.
The perfect balance of stone, wood, and water
The layout of the pond, with its seven buildings standing on the islands, as well as an artificial hill known as a tsukiyama form a superb composition. Great care has been given to even the smallest details, such as the paving stones, and the stone lanterns that are both practical and beautiful. Katsura Rikyu is a garden worth seeing in all seasons, and visitors will discover something new with each visit.
How to visit
You can only visit the villa by joining one of the regularly scheduled free tours. Tours can be booked in person at the Kyoto office of the Imperial Household Agency within the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds, in person on the day at the villa or online on the Imperial Household Agency's website, up to three months in advance. Advance online reservations are strongly recommended.