Katsura Imperial Villa

Katsura Imperial Villa

The nihongo|Katsura Imperial Villa|桂離宮|Katsura Rikyū, or Katsura Detached Palace, is a villa with associated gardens and outbuildings in the western suburbs of Kyoto, Japan (in Nishikyo-ku, separate from the Kyoto Imperial Palace). It is one of Japan's most important large-scale cultural treasures.

Its gardens are a masterpiece of Japanese gardening, and the buildings are even more important, one of the greatest achievements of Japanese architecture. The palace includes a shoin (building), tea houses, and a strolling garden. It provides an invaluable window into the villas of princes of the Edo period.

The palace formerly belonged to the princes of the Hachijo-no-miya (八条宮) family. The Imperial Household Agency administers it, and accepts visitors by appointment.


The Katsura district of Kyoto has long been favored for villas, and in the Heian period, Fujiwara no Michinaga had a villa there. The members of the Heian court found it an elegant location for viewing the moon.

Prince Toshihito (智仁; 1579–1629), the first of the Hachijo-no-miya line, established the villa at Katsura. The prince was a descendant of Emperor Ogimachi, and younger brother of Emperor Go-Yozei. Once adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he cancelled the adoption when Hideyoshi had a son, and founded the Hachijo-no-miya house.

The shoin of Katsura Imperial Villa is divided into three parts: the Old Shoin, the Middle Shoin, and the New Palace. The Old Shoin was built in around 1615 A.D. The construction of the shoin, teahouse and garden continued in the time of the second prince, Toshitada (智忠; 1619–1662), and reached completion after some decades.

The Hachijo-no-miya house changed its name to Tokiwai-no-miya (常磐井宮), Kyogoku-no-miya (京極宮), and finally Katsura-no-miya (桂宮), before the line died out in 1881. The Imperial Household Ministry took control of the Katsura Detached Palace in 1883, and since World War II, the Imperial Household Agency has been in control.

Buildings and gardens

The Old Shoin, Middle Shoin and New Palace are each in the shoin style, with irimoya "kokerabuki" (柿葺) roofs. The Old Shoin shows elements of the sukiya style in places like the veranda. A space called the moon-viewing platform protrudes even farther from the veranda, and shows that the main theme of Katsura Detached Palace was moon-viewing. The walls of the Middle Shoin and New Palace have ink-paintings by the school of Kanō Tan'yū (狩野 探幽). The shelving in the upper room of the New Palace is considered especially noteworthy.

The strolling garden takes water from the Katsura River for the central pond, around which are the "Shōkintei" (松琴亭), "Shōkatei" (賞花亭), "Shōiken" (笑意軒), and "Gepparō" (月波楼); tea houses, hill, sand, bridge, and lanterns. There is also a Buddhist hall, "Onrindō" (園林堂).

How to get there

The actual villa is located in western Kyoto. From the Imperial Palace or Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Shijo Station and transfer to the Hankyu Kyoto Line to Katsura Station. From the station, it is a 15 minute walk to the villa.

From Kyoto Station, there is also a direct bus number 33 to the villa. Get off at Katsura Rikyu-mae, from where it is a 5 minute walk.

To apply for permission, visit the office of the Kunaicho (Imperial Household Agency). It is located next to Kyoto Imperial Palace in central Kyoto. You need to show your passport.


See also

*Japanese Art

Further reading

There are numerous works on Katsura; the following are the main ones recommended as sources for further information:

* Akira Naito, Takeshi Nishikawa (photographs), (translated Charles S. Terry), "Katsura: A Princely Retreat" (Kodansha, New York, 1977) is a magnificent book, the definitive work on Katsura in English
* Teiji Itoh, Tadashi Yokoyama, Eiji Musha, Makato Suzuki, and Masao Arai and Taisuke Ogawa (photographs), "Katsura: A Quintessential Representative of the Sukiya Style of Architecture" ( Shinkenchiku-Sha, Tokyo, 1983) gives much internal detail, learned during the refurbishment of 1976-1982
* Walter Gropius, Kenzo Tange, Yasuhiro Ishimoto (photographs), "Katsura: Tradition and Creation in Japanese Architecture" (Yale University Press, New Haven, Zokeisha Publications, Tokyo, 1960) is a good (although early) work
* Teiji Itoh, Takeji Iwamiya, "Imperial Gardens of Japan" (Weatherill, New York, 1970) covers the gardens in great detail

External links

* [http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/guide/katsura.html Imperial Household Agency | The Katsura Imperial Villa]
* [http://katsura-rikyu.50webs.com/ The Tour Of Katsura Imperial Villa]

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