Kyoto : Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Suhama Seashore

1st June 2011. Visited by Xin Li.
Kyoto, Japan.
Katsura Imperial Villa (Katsura Rikyu) is one of the finest examples of purely Japanese architecture and garden design. The villa and garden in their present form were completed in 1645 as the residence for the Katsura Family, members of Japan's Imperial Family.” –

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Miyuki-mon Gate

The Miyuki-mon, was used as a doorway to welcome and entertain the imperial family or important guests.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Miyukimichi Path

The Miyukimichi leads to the entrance and exit of the villa as well as to the Shokintei.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Pathway to Sotokoshikake

View of a pathway away from the Sotokoshikake, the guard is behind the tree.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Sotokoshikake

The Sotokoshikake is where the guests rest and before they were led to the Shokintei. This is a basin where the guests clean their hands before the tea ceremony.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Pathway from Sotokoshikake

Each of the stone lanterns placed around the garden are unique.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Pathway from Sotokoshikake

The view of the gardens was obscured by a low pine tree called the Sumiyoshi no Matsu.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Garden

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Suhama Seashore

On the way to the Shokintei along the pond one get to see depictions of famous sights in Japan such as Amanohashidate.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Amanohashidate and Suhama Seashore

The Shokintei is where the tea ceremony is being held, here guests enjoy the vista and tea at the same time.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Shokintei

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Shokintei Interior

The fusama on all sides has been kept opened so you could enjoy the views from different angles from the tea house.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Shokintei

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - View from Shokintei

You could see the stone bridge leading to the Shokintei.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Shokintei

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Bridge to Shokatei

From Shokintei, one crosses a bridge and walk along a pathway to a simpler looking teahouse known as the Shokatei.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Shokatei

On the way to the next teahouse, you would pass by a shrine known as the Onrindo.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Onrindo

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Shoiken

The Shoiken is a teahouse with a country feel, the views reminds us of rice paddies. Take note of the koshi mado, circular lattice windows.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - View from Shoiken

As we walk towards the main villa, we will pass a plot of land with well-tended grass, this is where the residents and guests practiced archery in the past.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Chushoin & Shingoten

The Chushoin and Shingoten are strikingly minimalist.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Shingoten & Chushoin

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Towards Chushoin

The simplicity caught the attention of the Modernists such as Bruno Taut and Le Corbusier.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Chushoin

The last stop is the Gepparo, a tea pavilion standing on a promontory above the shore of the pond near Koshoin. As the name of the pavilion suggest it is a place to watch the moon. The back of the roof resembles the bottom on a boat and there is no interior ceiling in the tea pavilion to create a kind of continuous space.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Gepparo

As we walk back to the entrance, we will pass by a walkway leading towards Koshoin. A rock was placed in the middle of the path when I visited, I wonder what is that for?

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Tour Guide

Visits are only available in the form of tours (Japanese only but audio guides were provided) so you have to wait or cannot stay long to take photographs. There will always be a guard behind who might be in your photographs.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Miyukimichi Path

Without a big group and narrow pathways, one might not find the gardens as peaceful as expected. In our group there was this very rude and selfish Singaporean looking Chinese lady that pushes other visitors out of her way to take photographs.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Visitors at Shokintei

Nonetheless, it is worth visiting this strikingly minimalist villa and its gardens. It must have looked stunning during a summer day with clear blue skies or in autumn with its colorful foliage.

How to Visit?
Katsura Imperial Villa, Shugakuin Imperial Villa as well as the Imperial Palaces of Kyoto are under the Imperial Household Agency. The admission is free but you must book a tour with them in order to gain admission. The Imperial Household Agency Office is located at the west side of Kyoto Imperial Garden.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Outside Shokintei

They normally have tours available on the day itself at different timings. You could book online as well but it will normally be full (for online only).

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Suhama Seashore

How to Get There?
By Rail:
Take a train on the Hankyu Line from Kawaramachi or Karasuma-Shijo or Omiya to Katsura Station (180 Yen) or Take from Saiin to Katsura (150 Yen, this is still within the Bus Pass Free Zone). From there it is a 15-20 minutes walk to the Katsura Rikyu.
By Bus:
The bus to Katsura is beyond the Bus Pass Free Zone. You could take Bus 33 from Kyoto Station to Katsura Rikyu-mae Bus Stop as well.

Katsura Rikyū 桂離宮 - Shokintei


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