An Imperial villa, fine teahouses, moss gardens, and a shrine to the patron deity of sake – these are just some of the attractions that make Rakusei, the western part of Kyoto, a popular sightseeing destination. Rakusei, which includes the Arashiyama and Sagano areas, was a favored location for the villas of nobility during the Heian period. Nestled against the mountains and bordered by the Katsura River, Rakusei offers a tranquil and picturesque environment for visitors to explore.
One of the highlights of Rakusei is the Katsurarikyu Imperial Villa. Considered by many to be japan‘s best garden, this villa is celebrated by architects and gardeners around the world. Built in the early 17th century, it served as a villa for the Imperial Family and took 35 years to complete. The main structure of the villa is a “shoin,” or study room, consisting of three buildings known as the Koshoin, Chushoin, and Shingoten. The villa’s strolling garden includes seven tearooms and offers a serene and beautiful setting for visitors to enjoy.
To visit the Katsurarikyu Imperial Villa, visitors need to obtain permission from the Imperial Household Agency. Online registration at least three days in advance is required, although same-day applications are accepted at the villa. The guided tour of the villa takes approximately an hour, and audio guidance in multiple languages is available. It is important to note that the main palace buildings are not open to the public, but the teahouses and gardens can be explored.
In addition to the Katsurarikyu Imperial Villa, Rakusei is also home to the Matsuo Taisha shrine, which honors the patron deity of sake brewing. Founded in the 8th century by the Hata clan, who brought the technology of sake brewing from the Asian mainland, this shrine attracts many worshippers. The shrine’s garden, designed by renowned garden designer Mirei Shigemori, is another highlight and adds to the beauty and tranquility of the area.
Nearby Kegon-ji Temple, also known as Suzumushi-dera, offers visitors a unique experience. The temple is famous for its “suzumushi,” or bell crickets, which have been taught to chirp all year round. This serves as a Buddhist parable, reminding visitors to live their lives to the fullest. A visit to the temple includes a brief Buddhist sermon and a cup of refreshing green tea.
Aside from these specific attractions, Rakusei is a neighborhood filled with history and charm. The area is dotted with shrines, temples, and old buildings that offer glimpses into Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage. Taking a leisurely stroll along the Katsuragawa, the river that winds through the area, is a great way to soak in the atmosphere and appreciate the natural beauty surrounding Rakusei.
One of the advantages of visiting Rakusei is that most sites are within a short walking distance from each other. This makes it easy for visitors to explore the area at their own pace and spend as much time as they want at each attraction. Compared to other parts of Kyoto, Rakusei sees fewer tourists, which adds to its appeal as a peaceful and uncrowded destination.
Another factor that enhances the beauty of Rakusei is the changing seasons. During autumn, the hills above the sites are ablaze with vibrant colors, creating a picturesque backdrop for visitors. The tranquility and natural beauty of Rakusei make it an ideal place for a leisurely stroll or a quiet retreat from the bustling city.
To get to Rakusei, visitors can take the private Hankyu Railway from various locations in Kyoto. From JR Kyoto Station, transferring to the Hankyu Kyoto Main Line via the Keifuku Electric Railroad, Keihan Main Line, or Kyoto Municipal Subway is necessary. The Katsurarikyu Imperial Villa is a 15-minute walk from Katsura Station on the Hankyu Line, while other sites in Rakusei can be best reached from Matsuo-Taisha or Kami-Katsura Stations on the Hankyu Arashiyama Line.
In conclusion, Rakusei offers a unique and enchanting experience for visitors to Kyoto. With its Imperial villa, fine teahouses, moss gardens, and shrine to the patron deity of sake, this neighborhood showcases the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty that Kyoto is known for. Whether it’s exploring the Katsurarikyu Imperial Villa, marveling at the beautiful gardens, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll along the river, Rakusei is a must-visit destination for those seeking a tranquil and authentic Kyoto experience.
Address And Maps Location:
Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu