Shugaku-in Rikyu

even tortoise and crane
meet their fate
autumn evening


Most guidebooks say that visitors who want to visit these villas and gardens must seek approval several days in advance at the Kyoto office of the Imperial Household Agency, located on the grounds of the Old Imperial Palace (Gosho). I went and was given approval on the same day. I was pleased to visit it in the late afternoon. 

Shugaku-in Rikyu was the retreat of the Emperor Gomizuno (1596-1680) and is one of three imperial villas (along with Katsura and Sento Gosho) in Kyoto. It was never considered an official residence, rather a place of recreation and aesthetic pursuits.

After Gomizuno renounced his official duties, the Tokugawa shoguns encouraged him to build this villa. It actually is comprised of three separate villas with gardens at various elevations on a hillside of terraced rice fields. Shugaku-in is a tribute to Gomizuno’s talents and originality. It is a great stroll garden and, with its use of shakkei (borrowed scenery), marks a high point in Japan’s garden history.

This is a guided experience, and it is essential to be at the entrance on time. I arrived early and spent time strolling down an adjacent road that took me into the vegetable fields.

For information about entrance permit: 

For more information see