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Katsura Imperial Villa

Modelled on a setting in a novel, this site has one of Kyōto’s greatest traditional gardens and architectural treasures.

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.


Guide to Exploring around Katsura Imperial Villa


Lodging Near Katsura Imperial Villa

See all 3,068 properties near Katsura Imperial Villa
Guest house KOTONE KYOTO

Guest house KOTONE KYOTO

10-1 Nishikyogoku Shibanoshitacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto
    2.5 out of 5.0
     
     

    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 ...

    Guest house KOTONE KYOTOAU$85

    Open in February 2020 Rikyuan Saikyogoku C Room / Kyoto Kyoto

    Open in February 2020 Rikyuan Saikyogoku C Room / Kyoto Kyoto

    10-5 Higashikogawaramachi, Ukyo, Kyoto, Kyoto (prefecture)
       
       

      Located in Ukyo Ward, this hotel is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) from Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium and within 3 miles (5 km) of Kawaramachi and Kyoto Tower. Kyoto Aquarium ...

      Opening February 2020 Rikyuan Saikyogoku A Room / Kyoto Kyoto

      Opening February 2020 Rikyuan Saikyogoku A Room / Kyoto Kyoto

      10-5 Higashikogawaramachi, Ukyo, Kyoto, Kyoto (prefecture)
         
         

        Located in Ukyo Ward, this hotel is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) from Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium and within 3 miles (5 km) of Kawaramachi and Kyoto Tower. Kyoto Aquarium ...

        Opening February 2020 Rikyuan Saikyogoku B Room / Kyoto Kyoto

        Opening February 2020 Rikyuan Saikyogoku B Room / Kyoto Kyoto

        10-5 Higashikogawaramachi, Ukyo, Kyoto, Kyoto (prefecture)
           
           

          Located in Ukyo Ward, this hotel is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) from Nishikyogoku Athletic Stadium and within 3 miles (5 km) of Kawaramachi and Kyoto Tower. Kyoto Aquarium ...

          Rikyuan Kyoto Nishikyogoku

          Rikyuan Kyoto Nishikyogoku

            2.5 out of 5.0
             
             

            Located in Ukyo Ward, this hotel is 0.8 mi (1.3 km) from Katsura Imperial Villa and within 3 miles (5 km) of Kyoto Tower and Kawaramachi. Kyoto Aquarium and ...

            Kamikatsura House

            Kamikatsura House

              2.0 out of 5.0
               
               

              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 ...

              Kamikatsura HouseAU$79

              RIHGA Royal Hotel Kyoto

              RIHGA Royal Hotel Kyoto

              1 Taimatsu-cho, Shiokoji-sagaru, HigashiHorikawa-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto
                4.0 out of 5.0
                 
                 

                Located in Central Kyoto, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Kyoto Tower and Kyoto Aquarium. Kyoto Railway Museum and Kawaramachi are also within 2 mi ...

                RIHGA Royal Hotel KyotoAU$138

                JQ Villa Kyoto Nishikyougoku

                JQ Villa Kyoto Nishikyougoku

                  3.0 out of 5.0
                   
                   

                  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 ...

                  *Price based on the lowest price found within past 24 hours and based upon one night stay for two adults over the next thirty days. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.
                  ^Eligibility requirements and conditions apply.