“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.” – Japantravelguide.com
On the way to the Shokintei along the pond one get to see depictions of famous sights in Japan such as Amanohashidate.
The Shokintei is where the tea ceremony is being held, here guests enjoy the vista and tea at the same time.
The fusama on all sides has been kept opened so you could enjoy the views from different angles from the tea house.
You could see the stone bridge leading to the Shokintei.
From Shokintei, one crosses a bridge and walk along a pathway to a simpler looking teahouse known as the Shokatei.
On the way to the next teahouse, you would pass by a shrine known as the Onrindo.
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.
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.
The Chushoin and Shingoten are strikingly minimalist.
The simplicity caught the attention of the Modernists such as Bruno Taut and Le Corbusier.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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).
How to Get There?
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.
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.