Katsura Rikyu (Katsura Imperial Villa) (桂離宮)

Katsura Rikyu is the detached Palace (a palace built apart from the Imperial Palace) located at Katsura, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto City. It retains the original garden and buildings from early Edo period when it was built, it brings the old-world elegance from that period (imperial dynasty) to the present. It is called the circuit style garden and was one of the classical Japanese gardens. Also the Shoin (a drawing room in the shoin style) outside and separate from other buildings is built in the style of a tea-ceremony house (Sukiya), based upon the traditional Japanese style of residential architecture that includes a tokonoma. There is a tea house in the garden. Originally it was a resort villa belonging to the Katsura no Miya family. It is under the supervision of the Kyoto office of the Imperial Household Agency.

An appointment must be made through the Kyoto office of the Imperial Household Agency in order to visit the inside of the building. (Please click the external link below for information on visiting this building.)

The Katsura Rikyu was built as a villa for the Hachijo no Miya family in the seventeen century, it consists of Shoin, tea house, and circuit style garden. This is a rare building that shows how the modern Imperial villa was built.

The place of Katsura was known for the court noble's villas from olden days, and there used to be a villa belonging to FUJIWARA no Michinaga (it was called Betsugyo at that time instead of Besso, both mean villa) in the same place during the Heian period. This place is also known a good spot to view the moon in an elegant way.
There is Tsukiyomi-jinja Shrine in Matsumuro Nishikyo Ward near Katsura Rikyu, the name of Katsura came from the Chinese historical event, 'Gekkei (The Katsura tree on the moon).'

The base of the Katsura Rikyu was established by the first Hachijo no Miya Imperial Prince Toshihito (1579 - 1629). Imperial Prince Toshihito was Emperor Ogimachi's grandchild, and a brother of Emperor Goyozei. Imperial Prince Toshihito was initially adopted by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, but after Hideyoshi had his biological child, Toshihito established the Hachijo no Miya family. The Shoin of Katsura Rikyu separated into three sections, 'Kosho in,' 'Chusho in' and 'Shin Goten,' and the Kosho in was presumed to be built in 1615. The construction work of the Shoin, tea house, and the garden was passed to the second Hachijo no Miya Imperial Prince Toshitada (1619 - 1662), and the buildings were maintained for a few decades. The Hachijo no Miya family changed their name from Tokiwai no Miya, Kyogoku no Miya, Katsura no Miya, and the family was discontinued in 1881, after that it came under the supervision of the Department of the Imperial Household from 1883. After the World War, the Katsura Rikyu came under the supervision of the Department of the Imperial Household.

The buildings and garden. The Kosho in, Chusho in and Shingoten have buildings with a half-hipped roof (Irimoya zukuri) and is roofed with shingles (Kokera buki) and all were built based upon the traditional Japanese style of residential architecture that includes a tokonoma, there is a slight Sukiya style (a house built in the style of a tea-ceremony house) being used in the narrow wooden passageway of Kosho in. The veranda area coming out of the narrow wooden passageway of Kosho in, which is made with a lattice, is called 'Tsukimidai' (the place to view the moon), it tells you that the main theme of Katsura Rikyu was to observe the moon. The wall painting based on a sumi painting of Chusho in and the Shingoten was drawn by Tanno KANO's family who were patronized by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).
The 'Katsura dana' in the Jodan no ma (a raised floor level on which the shogun and his retinue sat) of the Shingoten was known as one of the Tenka sandana (three greatest shelves). (The other two are located at the Shugakuin Rikyu [Imperial Villa] and the Sanboin of Daigo-ji Temple.)

There is a pond in the center of the circuit style garden, and the water comes from the Katsura river, surrounded by a tea room, a mound, a sandy beach, a bridge and a stone lantern. There are four types of tea houses, Shokintei, Shokatei, Shoiken, and Gepparo, there is also a jibutsu-do hall (the private Buddha statue hall) called Onrindo.

The estimation
Bruno Taut, who defected from Germany in the early Showa period, mentioned about Katsura Rikyu, 'It makes me almost cry, it is so beautiful,' the simple beauty of the building without having any decorations was estimated to have the same value as the beauty seen in modern architectural modeling. It is often being compared with Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine which was built during the same period.

[Original Japanese]