Katsura Imperial Villa, or Katsura Detached Palace, is a villa with associated gardens and outbuildings in the western suburbs of Kyoto, Japan (in Nishikyo-ku, separate from the Kyoto Imperial Palace).
It is one of Japan's most important large-scale cultural treasures.
Its gardens are a masterpiece of Japanese gardening, and the buildings are even more important, one of the greatest achievements of Japanese architecture. The palace includes a shoin (building), tea houses, and a strolling garden. It provides an invaluable window into the villas of princes of the Edo period.
The palace formerly belonged to the princes of the Hachijo-no-miya family.
The Imperial Household Agency administers it, and accepts visitors by appointment. In theory you can apply on the day, but you may be disappointed. It is not difficult to apply online and in English, but in Spring and Autumn (Fall) you will normally need to book at least a couple of months in advance.
The Katsura district of Kyoto has long been favored for villas, and in the Heian period, Fujiwara no Michinaga had a villa there. The members of the Heian court found it an elegant location for viewing the moon.
Prince Toshihito (1579–1629), the first of the Hachijo-no-miya line, established the villa at Katsura. The prince was a descendant of Emperor Ogimachi, and younger brother of Emperor Go-Yozei. Once adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he cancelled the adoption when Hideyoshi had a son, and founded the Hachijo-no-miya house.
The shoin of Katsura Imperial Villa is divided into three parts: the Old Shoin, the Middle Shoin, and the New Palace. The Old Shoin was built in around 1615 A.D. The construction of the shoin, teahouse and garden continued in the time of the second prince, Toshitada (1619–1662), and reached completion after some decades.
The Hachijo-no-miya house changed its name to Tokiwai-no-miya, Kyogoku-no-miya, and finally Katsura-no-miya, before the line died out in 1881. The Imperial Household Ministry took control of the Katsura Detached Palace in 1883, and since World War II, the Imperial Household Agency has been in control.
Buildings and gardens
The Old Shoin, Middle Shoin and New Palace are each in the shoin style, with irimoya kokerabuki roofs. The Old Shoin shows elements of the sukiya style in places like the veranda. A space called the moon-viewing platform protrudes even farther from the veranda, and shows that the main theme of Katsura Detached Palace was moon-viewing. The walls of the Middle Shoin and New Palace have ink-paintings by the school of Kanō Tan'yū. The shelving in the upper room of the New Palace is considered especially noteworthy.
The strolling garden takes water from the Katsura River for the central pond, around which are the Shōkintei and Gepparō ; tea houses, hill, sand, bridge, and lanterns. There is also a Buddhist hall, Onrindō .