Shugaku-in Imperial Villa was built in the 17th century by Emperor Gomizuno and consists of three villas, each with its corresponding garden. Tucked away in northern Higashiyama, it's accessible yet has a rural vibe. Because the land was bought in 1964 to preserve it, the villa remains as it was in the past, surrounded by fields and rice paddies.
The Shugaku-in Imperial Villa is accessible within 40 minutes from Kyoto Station.
Take the Karasuma Line toward Kokusaikaikan, get off at Kokusaikaikan Station, and then get the #5 bus. Get off at Shugaku-in Rikyudo bus stop (6 mins).
From Kyoto Station, take bus #5 to Rikyu-michi bus stop. It's a 15- minute walk from there.
From Demachiyanagi, take the Eizan Line to Shugakuin Station. It's a 10-minute walk from there.
The most notable garden is marked with bridges spanning it to an island resting in the middle. A small wooden house sits on the south side of the pond, the deck of which offers grand views of the surrounding city and mountains.
To access the garden, you must apply at the Imperial Household Agency at the Imperial Palace in central Kyoto. You are not free to wander the grounds, but must go on a scheduled guided tour. The tour doesn't allow access inside the buildings, but you can peek into open doors and take in notable features like elevated tatami mats and intricately painted panels.
An audio guide for the tour is available in English.