Shugakuin Imperial Villa

Last updated
Shugakuin Imperial Villa
Shugaku-in Imperial Villa (修学院離宮, Shugaku-in Rikyū)
Shugaku-in Imperial Villa - Upper Garden pond.JPG
Upper Garden pond
Shugakuin Imperial Villa
Type Japanese garden
Location Kyoto, Japan
Coordinates 35°03′13″N135°48′06″E / 35.0537°N 135.80174°E / 35.0537; 135.80174 Coordinates: 35°03′13″N135°48′06″E / 35.0537°N 135.80174°E / 35.0537; 135.80174
Shugakuin Naka no Ochaya.jpg
Upper Garden pond Shugaku-in Imperial Villa - Upper Garden waterfall.JPG
Upper Garden pond

The Shugaku-in Imperial Villa (修学院離宮, Shugaku-in Rikyū), or Shugaku-in Detached Palace, is a set of gardens and outbuildings (mostly teahouses) 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 Imperial Household Agency administers it, and accepts visitors by appointment.


The Shugaku-in was originally constructed by the retired Emperor Go-Mizunoo, starting in 1655, with the initial construction completed in 1659. The site had been previously occupied by the Enshō-ji nunnery, founded by his oldest daughter, Princess Ume-no-miya; it was moved to Nara to make room for Go-Mizunoo's creation.

The Upper Garden contained a large artificial pond, created by building an earthen dam across a ravine; the pond contains a number of small islands. Unlike the typical Japanese garden, it is a very large stroll garden, making extensive use of the technique of borrowing of scenery ("shakkei"). The Lower Garden was originally much more informal than what is now there; originally it was more of a simple arrival station for visiting guests.

After Go-Mizunoo's death, his daughter Princess Mitsuko became a nun, and established another temple there, the Ryinku-ji, in what later became the Middle Garden. The gardens and buildings then fell into disrepair, with some of the buildings either being destroyed or removed. During the rule of Tokugawa Ienari, the 11th Tokugawa shōgun , the Shūgaku-in was thoroughly renovated.

In 1883, the Shugaku-in came under the control of the Imperial Household Department (as it was then), and the large building which is currently in the Middle Garden was moved there. Other changes, such as the building of fences around the Lower and Middle Gardens, and the enclosure of the paths between them, soon followed, giving the Shūgaku-in the character it has today.

Garden features

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 Kanō 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.

The three gardens are linked by two straight allées, each perhaps 100 meters in length and lined by regular plantings of pine trees, that run through surrounding rice plantations and offer excellent views of both the plantations and the nearby hills.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Emperor Go-Mizunoo Emperor of Japan

Emperor Go-Mizunoo was the 108th Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. Go-Mizunoo's reign spanned the years from 1611 through 1629, and was the first emperor to reign entirely during the Edo period.

Sen no Rikyū

Sen no Rikyū, also known simply as Rikyū, is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on chanoyu, the Japanese "Way of Tea", particularly the tradition of wabi-cha. He was also the first to emphasize several key aspects of the ceremony, including rustic simplicity, directness of approach and honesty of self. Originating from the Sengoku period and the Azuchi–Momoyama period, these aspects of the tea ceremony persist. Rikyū is known by many names; for consistency, he will be referred to as Rikyū in this article.

Tokyo Imperial Palace Usual residence of the Emperor of Japan

The Tokyo Imperial Palace is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park-like area located in the Chiyoda district of the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo and contains several buildings including the main palace, some residences of the Imperial Family, an archive, museums and administrative offices.

<i>Chashitsu</i> Japanese tea house

Chashitsu in Japanese tradition is an architectural space designed to be used for tea ceremony (chanoyu) gatherings.

Japanese architecture Overview of the architecture in Japan

Japanese architecture has been typified by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Sliding doors (fusuma) were used in place of walls, allowing the internal configuration of a space to be customized for different occasions. People usually sat on cushions or otherwise on the floor, traditionally; chairs and high tables were not widely used until the 20th century. Since the 19th century, however, Japan has incorporated much of Western, modern, and post-modern architecture into construction and design, and is today a leader in cutting-edge architectural design and technology.

Nagoya Castle Japanese castle located in Nagoya, central Japan

Nagoya Castle is a Japanese castle located in Nagoya, Japan.

Nijō Castle

Nijō Castle is a flatland castle in Kyoto, Japan. The castle consists of two concentric rings (Kuruwa) of fortifications, the Ninomaru Palace, the ruins of the Honmaru Palace, various support buildings and several gardens. The surface area of the castle is 275,000 square metres, of which 8,000 square metres (86,000 sq ft) is occupied by buildings.

Japanese garden Type of traditional garden

Japanese gardens are traditional gardens whose designs are accompanied by Japanese aesthetics and philosophical ideas, avoid artificial ornamentation, and highlight the natural landscape. Plants and worn, aged materials are generally used by Japanese garden designers to suggest an ancient and faraway natural landscape, and to express the fragility of existence as well as time's unstoppable advance. Ancient Japanese art inspired past garden designers.

Katsura Imperial Villa

The Katsura Imperial Villa, or Katsura Detached Palace, is a villa with associated gardens and outbuildings in the western suburbs of Kyoto, Japan. It is one of Japan's most important large-scale cultural treasures.

Kyoto Imperial Palace

The Kyoto Imperial Palace is the former ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan. Since the Meiji Restoration in 1869, the Emperors have resided at the Tokyo Imperial Palace, while the preservation of the Kyoto Imperial Palace was ordered in 1877. Today, the grounds are open to the public, and the Imperial Household Agency hosts public tours of the buildings several times a day.


Shinden-zukuri (寝殿造) refers to the style of domestic architecture developed for palatial or aristocratic mansions built in Heian-kyō in the Heian period (794–1185), especially in 10th century Japan.

Sakyō-ku, Kyoto Ward of Kyoto

Sakyō-ku is one of the eleven wards in the city of Kyoto, in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan.


Tenryū-ji (天龍寺), formally known as Tenryū Shiseizen-ji (天龍資聖禅寺), is the head temple of the Tenryū-ji branch of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, located in Susukinobaba-chō, Ukyō Ward, Kyoto, Japan. The temple was founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339, primarily to venerate Gautama Buddha, and its first chief priest was Musō Soseki. Construction was completed in 1345. As a temple related to both the Ashikaga family and Emperor Go-Daigo, the temple is held in high esteem, and is ranked number one among Kyoto's so-called Five Mountains. In 1994, it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto".


Daikaku-ji is a Shingon Buddhist temple in Ukyō-ku, a western ward in the city of Kyoto, Japan. The site was originally a residence of Emperor Saga, and later various emperors conducted their cloistered rule from here. The Saga Go-ryū school of ikebana has its headquarters in the temple. The artificial lake of the temple, Ōsawa Pond, is one of the oldest Japanese garden ponds to survive from the Heian period.

In Japan, the Sentō Imperial Palace traditionally does not refer to a single location, but to any residence of retired emperors. Before Akihito abdicated in 2019, the last Emperor to retire did so in 1817, so the designation commonly refers to the historical Kyoto Sento Imperial Palace (京都仙洞御所).


Manshu-in, also known as the Manshuin Monzeki, is a Tendai temple located near the Shugakuin Imperial Villa at Sakyō-ku, Ichijo-ji, Takenouchi-cho, in northeast Kyoto, Japan.

Takeji Iwamiya was a Japanese photographer particularly known for his depiction of architecture, gardens, and Japanese crafts.

Kyū Shiba Rikyū Garden

The Kyū Shiba Rikyū Garden (旧芝離宮恩賜庭園), also known as Kyū Shiba Rikyū Onshi Teien is a public garden and former imperial garden in Minato ward, Tokyo, Japan. The garden is one of four surviving Edo-period clan gardens in Tokyo, the others being Koishikawa Kōraku-en, Rikugi-en, and Hama Rikyu Garden. Kyū Shiba Rikyū is often regarded as the most beautifully designed garden in Tokyo, and was once called the "most beautiful" scene in Japan.


Sukiya-zukuri (数寄屋造り) is one type of Japanese residential architectural style. Suki means refined, well cultivated taste and delight in elegant pursuits and refers to enjoyment of the exquisitely performed tea ceremony.

Outline of Kyoto Overview of and topical guide to Kyoto

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Kyoto: