Feb. 12, 2020 UPDATE
Okochi Sanso Villa- 大河内山荘 -
The English brochure is available at the entrance. Nobody speaks English, but a staff is very friendly. There are sign boards in English so that you can stroll through smoothly.
Japanese, basic English
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Story & Recommendation
The Okochi Sanso Villa is a beautiful garden built by a Japanese movie star
Have you heard of the term “borrowed scenery” before? It is one of the garden styles in Japan, called “shakkei” in Japanese. Borrowed scenery means a garden where the background is incorporated into the design of the garden. The Okochi Sanso Villa’s garden is a good example of this style of garden. The villa was originally owned by the actor Denjiro Okochi (1898-1962) who appeared in many historic films. The construction of the villa took over 30 years, but now the villa garden is one of the best examples of a garden that is designed to have something to see no matter what season it is. The view of Mount Hiei from the garden is breathtaking. When you get into the garden, you start walking fallowing a path through it. The path is a bit steep at places so the recommended footwear for the villa is sneakers. At some places the path is just stones laid on the ground, so high heels are out of the question. I have personally seen some women struggle with their choice of footwear here.
The Daijo-kaku is the main building of the villa, and it is an interesting mix of different Japanese architectural styles. This was where Denjiro Okochi’s bedroom used to be, and it also housed a tea ceremony room and the kitchen. In short this is where he used to live when he was at the villa. In front of the Daijo-kaku is where you can drink your matcha, so you can drink tea while admiring this beautiful structure. Also, after starting to climb up the hill, it is worth to take a moment to look back at Daijo-kaku and see how it fits together in the scenery with the mountains in the background.
A Mountain View
When you continue climbing up the hill, you get to a place with a great view between the Daijo-kaku and Jibutsu-do where a Buddha statue is enshrined. If you are blessed with a good weather, you should be able to see Mount Hiei, Kinugasa and Daimonji; and the pagoda of Ninna-ji Temple in the distance.
You are Almost at the Top!
Next you will get a great view of the Hozu gorge. You can see the Hozu River down in the gorge and some buildings on the other side of the gorge. I still don’t know what is on the other side, some temples maybe? That will be a whole new article, but for another time.
Moon Light Pavilion
After walking a while you get to the highest point of the garden, a structure called the Moon Light Pavilion. The view from the Moon Light Pavilion is the best part of the visit. The view is beautiful during the day, but if you have a chance, definitely visit in December during the Hanatoro event when you can see the night view from here. You can view almost all of Kyoto from here, but be sure to notice Kyoto Tower
- Manner & Tips -
Keep on the path; do not enter the restricted areas. Remember to wear walking shoes.