Katsura-rikyu, an imperial villa

Katsura-Rikyu is an Imperial Villa in Katsura district of Kyoto. The villa consists of a beautiful stroll garden and excellent buildings that include Shoin building and four tea houses that are arranged in the garden.

You can enjoy changes of view while walking along the path in the garden. You loose a view of the pond here and you see the whole pond there or you are on the waterside then you stand on the high place.

The villa is worth to visit but has a couple of obvious deficits from a viewpoint of a tourist. Those are, (a) you have to apply for a guided tour beforehand and, (b) you have no freedom of strolling around but have to follow a guide who explain things of interest in Japanese as well as giving instruction for places where you can use a camera.

Brief History

Katsura-Rikyu was built in the 17th Century as a villa of Hachijonomiya Imperial Family. Imperial Prince Toshihito (1579-1629) who founded Hachijonomiya Family started construction of a rather simple villa in 1615 and completed several years later. The oldest part of Shoin building, Koshoin (Old Shoin), was built that time.

After the prince passed away, the villa dilapidated for more than 10 years. Prince Yoshihito's son Prince Toshitada (1619-1662) regained wealth after he was married a daughter of a feudal lord and revived and enlarged the villa. He completed construction of the villa around 1649.

Hachijonomiya family became extinct in 1881 and the villa is under the jurisdiction of the Imperial Household Agency since 1883.

How to get to Katsura-rikyu

  • 20 minutes of walk from Katsura station of Hankyu Railway Line or,
  • Kyoto City Bus 33 from Kyoto Station to Katsura-Rikyu-mae bus stop, then 8 minutes of walk.

Hours, Admission and Official Website

The villa is closed on National Holidays and December 28 to January 4 as well as days they need to close for special events.  They also close on the week ends with the following exception:

They open the third Saturdays of each month and all the Saturdays of  April, May, October and November. They open those Saturdays even if those are National Holidays.

One hour of tour starts at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 13:30, 14:30 and 15:30

Admission is free but you have to apply for a tour beforehand. Visitors must be 18 years old or above.

Check details in their website: http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/guide/katsura.html


Click on thumbnails for larger images and more information. All photos were taken in October 4, 2003.

Ko-shoin Garden viewed from Shokin-tei Geppa-ro, a tea house
Goten seen from Shokin-tei. Ama-no-hashidate. Geppa-ro (Moon-Wave Pavilion), a tea house, seen from Shokin-tei.
Suhama Shirakawa-bashi brige Shokin-tei
In the middle of the photo is Suhama that is likened to a cape. A stone bridge called Shirakawa-bashi, a granite slab about 6 meters long, 65 centimeters wide and 35 centimeters thick. On the right is the tea room of Shokin-tei, the highest ranked teahouse in the villa.
A room of Shokin-tei The pond and a room of Shokin-tei Shokin-tei 2
The second room of Shokin-tei. The pond seen from the first room of Shokin-tei.
A verandah of Shokin-tei.
A room of Shokin-tei nside of Shoka-tei Onrin-do and tsuchihashi
The first room of Shokin-tei. Inside of Shoka-tei, a teah-hut. Onrin-do in the right and tsuchibashi, an earth covered bridge, on the left.
Shoi-ken, a teahouse A room in Shokin-tei A unique triangular ishidoro
Shoi-ken, a country cottage style tea pavilion. The rooms of Shoi-ken. A unique triangular ishidoro, a stone lantern.
Onrin-do and tsuchihashi Chushoin and Koshoin Shin-Goten, Gakki-no-ma and Chushoin
Onrin-do and tsuchibashi. Chu-shoin on the left and Ko-shoin on the right, and a line of visitors. From left to right, Shin-Goten, Gakki-no-ma and Chushoin.
Funazoko-tenjo of Geppa-ro Shokin-tei and the garden Close-up view of Shokin-tei
Funazoko-tenjo of Geppa-ro. Funazoko means the bottom of a ship and tenjo is a ceiling. Shokin-tei and the garden.
A Close-up view of Shokin-tei.