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View of the garden, Sugakuin Imperial Villa, Kyoto

The Shugaku-in Imperial Villa is a set of gardens and outbuildings in the hills of the eastern suburbs of Kyoto. It was built in the 17th century by Emperor Gomizuno and consists of the Upper, Middle and Lower Villa areas, each featuring gardens and buildings of the traditional imperial style. Created as an imperial summer retreat, the garden complex is a fine example of Japanese landscape design.

Shugakuin is only accessible to the public through guided tours. While we have to keep with the pace of the group, visitors are allowed to take any photos they want. The interior of the buildings are not accessible, but doors and shôji (paper doors/windows) are often left open. 

 

Click here for info about visiting the villa

Tours last about one hour and twenty minutes and take visitors through all three villas, pointing out the significant garden features and structures. The tour is held in Japanese, but audio guides in several foreign languages are available.

Free tours of Shugakuin Imperial Villa are held five times per day. To reserve a tour, you need to apply in advance with your passport at the Imperial Household Agency’s office in Kyoto Imperial Park (Monday to Friday from 8:45 to 12:00 and from 13:00 to 17:00). Alternatively, a small number of tour spots are available for reservations over the agency’s website (English application page) — even if the result is uncertain, this is our preferred way of applying. Reservations can be applied for three months ahead of the visiting date. 

In addition, a limited number of same-day tickets for some of the tours are distributed at the Shugakuin Imperial Villa from 11:00 on a first-come-first-serve basis.

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