桂離宮Katsura Imperial Villa



The Miyukimon Gate was used as the entrance exclusively for members of the Imperial Family and their guests. This gate was built on the occasion of the visit of retired Emperor Gomizuno'o in the mid-17th century. Although the gate was torn down later, it was restored during the time of Prince Yakahito. The thatched gable roof is supported by log pillars with the bark still attached. The Miyukimon Gate shares a sense of silence and simplicity that are characteristic of the Katsura Imperial Villa.



Located near the teahouse Shokintei, it is a small building where guests could wait until the host had finished preparing tea. It has a large roof supported by log pillars with the bark still attached and has a restroom in one of the corners. The beautiful paving stones and various steps, along with the cycad on the other side, are extremely visually appealing.



There are many flat stones packed onto the Suhama shore, which just out into the pond. There is a lantern at the tip and the intention is to create an image of the sea, with the lantern representing a light house on a cape. Further more, the stone bridge connecting the islet represents Amanohashidate, which is known as one of the best three scenic spots in Japan, along with Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture and Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture.



Crossing a large stone bridge brings the visitor to the entrance of the Shokintei, the most important teahouse at the villa. "Shokin" means the sound of a koto (Japanese harp) and the whistle of the wind passing through pine trees. Because the entrance is extremely small, visitors must hunch over to pass through to the interior. It is a typical Japanese teahouse and there are eight windows on the inside of the entrance. A different perspective of the Shokintei can be enjoyed from the east, north and west. The ichinoma, or first room, has a blue-and white checkered pattern on the sliding door and tokonoma alcove. This is the result of bold and flexible creativity and ingenuity and it appears as novel and contemporary today as it did back then.



Climbing up the small hill patterned with stepping stones on one of the small islets in the pond, visitors will discover a stone lantern called mizuhotaru (firefly in the water) on the way. The Shokatei, built in a style like a teahouse at the pass, is located at the highest point of elevation in the garden. It is an ideal location to stay in the summer.



This structure is located at the base of the hill on which the Shokatei is located and it was where the memorial tablets of the Katsura family were previously kept. Now only the structure remains.



The Shoiken is a country-style teahouse beside the shoreline that has cut paving stones leading to it in a diagonal line. In the room with a narrow wooden passageway along the building facing the garden, there are six round windows lined up horizontally above the waist-high papered sliding door, but the combination of the sills is different for every one and the material used for the lattice window is a subtle combination of wood and bamboo. The interior is partitioned by fusuma, or sliding doors, but the ceiling is not partitioned. This is thought to give an appearance of airiness inside. At the boat mooring there are the sankotoro, or "three-light lanterns." They are designed to represent sunlight, moonlight and starlight. They have a cover that is shaped like the paper cover for a lantern.



The cluster of the Shoin, which consist of the Koshoin, Chushoin, Gakkinoma and Shingoten, are built next to one another along an east-west axis. The Koshoin has a Tsukimidai, or a moon-viewing veranda, facing the pond. The Chushoin has three rooms and Gakkinoma was where musical instruments were stored. The Shingoten was added on by Prince Toshitada on the occasion of the visit by retired Emperor Gomizuno'o. Throughout the period from 1976 to 1991 large-scale restoration work took place, with each Shoin and teahouse being dismantled and then rebuilt.



This is a veranda for moon-viewing. Situated in front of the ninoma, or the second room, one of the rooms of the Koshoin, the Tsukimidai is built in a way so that it protrudes from the broad passageway along the building facing the garden toward the lake and is constructed with bamboo flooring. It goes without saying that this is not only a lovely place to enjoy the view of the moon, but also an ideal place to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire villa gardens. It is a cool and refreshing place to be in summer.



The Gepparo is a teahouse standing on a promontory above the shore of the pond near the Koshoin. There is a spacious earthen area to the front-center of the structure. It is a good place to watch the moon and another feature is that there is no interior ceiling in the teahouse and the back of the roof looks like the bottom of a boat.



This is the entrance to the Shoin, the main house. The front garden is covered with moss and there are stones paving the route toward the Okoshiyose from the inner gate. This stone-paved walk is of the highest quality made by combining angularly cut stones of various shapes. If visitors go up the four stone steps leading to the Okoshiyose, there is a large stone where they can remove their shoes, which has enough space to accommodate six pairs of shoes.