On a sunny day in May 2016, I took part in a guided tour at Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto Prefecture. As some of you may know, reserving a tour there is not an easy task. Instead of securing a booking through the Internet, I visited the office of the Imperial Household Agency located in the compound of Kyoto Imperial Palace in person in early May and reserved a tour scheduled to be conducted two weeks afterwards. It is worth waiting because Katsura Villa is one of interesting places in Kyoto.
The compound of the villa is surrounded by a unique hedgerow made of bamboo grass. It spans over 200 meters and is called Katsura hedge. As you approach the front gate, the Katsura hedge ends and a bamboo fence called ho-gaki begins and continues to the entrance.
There is an air of simplicity and cleanliness around the entrance area, with no daunting objects like an imposing wall. It made me excited to just think about what is waiting inside.
Katsura Imperial Villa is located in Katsura (formerly called “Katsura village”), Nishikyo-ku in Kyoto Prefecture. The area had been well-known as a spot for moon-viewing long before the villa was constructed, and it also has been closely related to the Tale of Genji which was written in the Heian Period. Studies suggest that the origin of Katsura Imperial Villa dates back to the early 17th century when Prince Toshihito constructed the original main building, the Koshoin, there. In the middle of the 17th century, it developed almost to the point of its current state.
Near the chumon gate there is a small pine tree called Sumiyoshi Pine Tree. It is as if the pine tree prevents visitors from looking at the entire view of the garden from this point.
Passing under the chumon gate, the stone path meanders at first, and then, extends diagonally to the left toward the entrance of the Koshoin. Green moss surrounds the stone pavement. This is where the noblemen used to get off the palanquin to enter the Koshoin. Even from here, we can’t see the inside of the building, nor can we get a good look at the other buildings or the garden, as the shrubberies obstruct the view.
Photographs: taken at Katsura Imperial Villa,
by Koji Ikuma, with Fuji X-T1 & XF 35mmF2R WR