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Katsura Rikyū information
Katsura Rikyū, one of Kyoto’s imperial properties, is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Japanese traditional architecture and garden design. Set amid an otherwise drab neighbourhood, it is (very literally) an island of incredible beauty. There are those, however, who feel that the troublesome application process, the distance of the villa from Downtown and the need to join a regimented tour detracts from the experience.
The villa was built in 1624 for the emperor’s brother, Prince Toshihito. Every conceivable detail of the villa – the tea-houses, the large pond with islets and the surrounding garden – has been given meticulous attention.
Tours (in Japanese) start at 10am, 11am, 2pm and 3pm, and last 40 minutes. Try to be there 20 minutes before the start time. An explanatory video is shown in the waiting room and a leaflet is provided in English.
You must make reservations, usually several weeks in advance, through the Imperial Household Agency.
To get to the villa from Kyoto Station, take bus 33 and get off at the Katsura Rikyū-mae stop, which is a five-minute walk from the villa. The easiest access from the city centre is to take a Hankyū line train from Kawaramachi Station to Katsura Station line, which is a 15-minute walk from the villa. A taxi from Katsura Station to the villa will cost about ¥700. Note that some tokkyū (express) trains don’t stop in Katsura.