The view from the foot of Mount Hiei provides a magnificent view of the city and the mountains to the North in a good example of Shakkei (borrowed scenery). This 545,000 square meter villa consists of three parts, Upper Villa, Middle Villa, and Lower Villa. The name comes from the burned Shugakuin Temple from the middle Heian Period.
The Villa was designed by Emperor Gomizuno for his his retirement home. He constructed the Middle Villa as a residence for the princess Akenomiya and the Rinkyuji nunnery.
The Pond of the Bathing Dragon, “Yokuryu-chi” is shaped like a dragon so that it may easily accommodate a bathing dragon.
From the official website in English:
- Constructed by the order of the Emperor Gomizunoo in the mid-seventeenth century, Shugakuin Imperial Villa consists of three villas (Lower, Middle, and Upper). Its incorporation of the surrounding natural scenery into the garden design is typical of Japanese architecture.
- The Shugaku-in Imperial Villa, or Shugaku-in Detached Palace, is a set of gardens and outbuildings (mostly tea-houses) in the hills of the eastern suburbs of Kyoto, Japan (separate from the Kyoto Imperial Palace). It is one of Japan’s most important large-scale cultural treasures; its gardens are one of the great masterpieces of Japanese gardening.
- Although styled as a “detached palace”, often translated as “imperial villa”, there were never any large-scale buildings there, as there are at the Katsura Imperial Villa. The 53-hectare (133 acre) grounds actually include three separate gardens, the Lower Garden, Middle Garden (a later addition), and Upper Garden, of which the latter is the most important.
The Lower Garden consists of an outer, landscaped area with walking paths, and an inner garden with villa, separated by a series of two bamboo fences each with a simple, wooden doorway. The villa (Jugetsu-kan) is irregularly shaped, with three principal rooms of 15, 12, and 5 tatami mats in size; the largest contains a raised section for the emperor, as well as a drawing of “The Three Laughing Sages of Kokei” said to be by Ganku (1756-1839). The garden features a small brook and pond divided by a walkway embankment, and is set off from the villa by a region of coarse, white sand with white stepping-stones. The Middle Garden contains an inner garden area with two principal buildings, again set within an outer and then inner fence. It features a fine pond predating the garden, with cascade and stone bridges. Rakushi-ken contains two principal rooms of 6 and 8 mats in size, and features two paintings by Kano Tanshin. Kyaku-den, the reception hall, contains two principal rooms (12.5 and 10 mats) and an altar room (6.5 mats) added after the building was moved to this site in 1678 from the palace at Tofuku-monin. It contains a celebrated shelf of zelkova wood, known as the “Shelf of Mist”, paintings by Kano Hidenobu, and fine paintings on wooden panels.The spectacular Upper Garden is reached through a simple gate and short climb through clipped shrubbery, at which point the entire garden vista is revealed. A simple pavilion of several rooms and wooden porch provides an excellent vantage point, with superb views of the pond, its islands, and the surrounding Kyoto hills. The nearby waterfall is about 10 meters in height, built of rough-hewn stones, and set within a highly picturesque surrounding.
The pond is ornamented with two major structures: Chitose-bashi, a relatively ornate bridge of two large, stone piers connected by a central walkway, each capped with a wooden pavilion, one of which sports a Chinese phoenix of gilt copper; and Kyusui-tei, a simple, single-room building (18 mats) which is original. The pond also features two smaller bridges, a stone boat-landing, and a second, smaller waterfall. The pond’s west bank is long and remarkably monotonous, with lawn, trees, walkway, and clipped hedge running atop the large, earthen-work dam that created the pond.
Important Admission Information: Operated by the Imperial Household. You must apply for admission to a guided tour. For information and application, see Imperial Household Agency or visit Imperial Household Agency Office at 3 Kyoto-gyoen, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto, 602-8611. Approval may take some time so start your application process several months in advance.