Sep. 03, 2020 UPDATE
Katsura Imperial Villa- 桂離宮 -
You can apply online, and from 2016 onward they have also same day tours, so joining the tour is easier than it used to be. Also, because they have audio guides in English, French, and Chinese you can also get to know the Katsura Imperial Villa.
Japanese and English
The guided tour is only in Japanese, but audio guides in English, French, and Chinese are available for free.
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Story & Recommendation
Katsura Imperial Villa is a masterpiece of Japanese gardening built as a villa for the Imperial Family
The Katsura Imperial Villa is located in Katsura, Kyoto, and it was built around the year 1600, in the beginning of the Edo period, for the Imperial Family. There have been no fires at the villa since its building, so the villa looks almost the same today as it did in 1600. The grounds cover an area of approximately 70,000 square meters, and the area contains a stroll garden, teahouses for tea ceremonies and other buildings. The stroll garden surrounding the pond is a masterpiece that is also famous overseas, and the garden is built in a way that you cannot see everything from one place. The elaborately thought out designs of the teahouses and shoin “drawing rooms” probably made people feel in awe 400 years ago, as they do today. The beautiful Katsura Imperial Villa with its Japanese atmosphere is a place whenever you visit Kyoto, I wish you an enjoyable visit to the Katsura Imperial Villa. If you wish to participate on a tour of the villa, you have to apply in advance, though from 2016 onward same day applications at the Katsura Imperial Villa also became possible.
This is one of the teahouses in the Katsura Imperial Villa, standing out from the rest with its simple thatched roof. The tea room is a rustic Soan-style one, and has eight windows. The four teahouses at the Katsura Imperial Villa are all made to be enjoyed for one of the four seasons, and Shokin-tei is made to be enjoyed in winter.
Shoin drawing rooms
These shoin drawing rooms are the biggest buildings in the Katsura Imperial Villa. These three shoin drawing rooms, the old one, the middle one and the new one, built in a flying geese formation give an orderly impression. The old shoin has a moon viewing veranda called Tsukimidai from where you could view the moon. The Katsura Imperial Villa was built so that one could view the moon all through the year, and the Tsukimidai of the old shoin is one place where it was possible to view the moon.
See the alcove of Shokin-tei
The alcove of the Shokin-tei can be seen to have a checkered pattern. This design thought out 400 years ago could pass as something designed today. Compared to the simple thatched roof, the inside of the building feel incredibly modern. You can also look inside the alcove so please take a look.
Find the hidden points of the Katsura Imperial Villa
On the path toward the pond you can see a pine tree almost blocking the way. This pine tree together with the hedges on both sides blocks your view of the pond, which is why this pine is called a “partitioning screen pine.” If you happen to see the pond before seeing a full view, your feeling of awe fades, which is why this pine tree was planted here in the first place. There are many small hidden points like this in the Katsura Imperial Villa, so pay close attention to the things your guide is saying!