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The Katsura Imperial Villa on the Katsura River was built by Prince Toshihito in the 17th century. It was designed to look like a location described in the famous 11th-century novel The Tale of Genji.
In his design, Prince Toshihito was interested less in opulence and more in recreating the setting of his favourite novel. He poured all his resources into creating the gardens, teahouses and villa buildings that make up the palace. After his death, his son continued the project, increasing the scale of the garden and the number of teahouses.
During the 20th century, the villa featured in a book by German architect Bruno Taut, and gained great popularity among modernist architects, such as Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius.
Though you are not allowed to enter the buildings, you can get a good view from the outside of the mostly unadorned and geometric interior surfaces which the modernists so admired.
On arrival, you watch a film with information on the villa, and some rules to follow during your visit. The rules include where photography is allowed. Guided tours are in Japanese, so it’s best to get an English audio guide for your tour of the grounds.
There are four teahouses, built of rustic materials. Each is designed for a different outlook. The Moon-Wave Pavilion is designed to give the best view of the harvest moon reflected in the pond, while the Flower Appreciation Pavilion is surrounded by cherry trees, and has the best view over the villa.
In the gardens, you’ll see some very old gardening practices. Handmade bamboo fences and gates separate spaces in the gardens. In the cooler months, sago palms are wrapped in straw bedding to ensure their survival during winter.
Although entry to the Katsura Imperial Villa is free, permits must be prearranged a few days ahead at the Royal Household Information Office in downtown Kyōto. You must present your passport when applying for the permit. The villa is usually open during week days only. It’s accessible by bus from Kyōto Station, the city’s main transportation hub.
Located in Central Kyoto, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Nishihonganji Temple, Kyoto Tower and Kyoto Aquarium. Toji Temple and Shijo Omiya are also within 1 mile (2 km). Kyoto Station is 9 minutes by foot and Kyoto Toji Station is 12 minutes.
Located in Ukyo Ward, this guesthouse is within 1 mi (2 km) of Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium and Katsura Imperial Villa. Nijō Castle and Ryōan-ji are also within 6 mi (10 km). Kyoto Nishikyogoku Station is 9 minutes by foot and Kyoto Katsura Station is 23 minutes.
Located in Ukyo Ward, this holiday home is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) from Katsura Imperial Villa and within 3 miles (5 km) of Kawaramachi and Kyoto Tower. Toji Temple and Kyoto Aquarium are also within 3 miles (5 km). Kyoto Nishikyogoku Station is 11 minutes by foot and Kyoto Katsura Station is 22 minutes.
Located in Nishikyo, this guesthouse is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) from Katsura Imperial Villa, and within 3 mi (5 km) of Suzumushi-dera Temple and Koryuji Temple. Arashiyama Monkey Park and Kawaramachi are also within 3 mi (5 km). Kyoto Kami-Katsura Station is 10 minutes by foot and Kyoto Katsura Station is 19 minutes.
Located in Minami, this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Kyoto TERRSA and Kyoto Tower. Kyoto Aquarium and Sanjusangendo Temple are also within 1 mile (2 km). Kujo Station is only a 5-minute walk and Jujo Station is 15 minutes.
Located in Central Kyoto, this hotel is within 1 mile (2 km) of Higashi Honganji Temple, Kyoto Tower and Sanjusangendo Temple. Kawaramachi and Nishiki Market are also within 2 miles (3 km). Kujo Station is 9 minutes by foot and Kyoto Station is 5 minutes.
Located in Nishikyo, this guesthouse is 0.9 mi (1.5 km) from Suzumushi-dera Temple and within 3 miles (5 km) of Toei Kyoto Studio Park and Shijo Omiya. Katsura Imperial Villa and Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium are also within 1 mile (2 km). Kyoto Kami-Katsura Station is only a 2-minute walk and Kyoto Katsura Station is 20 minutes.
Located in Ukyo Ward, this holiday home is 0.6 mi (1 km) from Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium and within 3 miles (5 km) of Kawaramachi and Kyoto Tower. Nijō Castle and Nishiki Market are also within 3 miles (5 km). Kyoto Nishikyogoku Station is 5 minutes by foot and Kyoto Saiin Station is 25 minutes.