Tours at 10am and 2pm on every day except Saturday afternoon, Sundays, national holidays and New Years (Dec 25-Jan 5)
Added to JGarden:
All visitor's must obtain permission in advance from the Kyoto office of the Imperial Household Agency (located on the grounds of the Gosho).
The Katsura Imperial Villa is considered the epitome of the stroll garden. Originally known as Katsura Sanso, this was the estate of Prince Toshihito(1579-1629), brother of Emperor Goyozei (1571-1617) and member of the Hachijonomiya family. His son, Toshitada added the villa buildings and made some changes to the garden. The final piece, Miyukiden was added 1658 when Emperor Gomizuno (1596-1680) visited. It is one of three Imperial Villas (the others being Sento Gosho and Shugakuin).
Katsura used to be attributed to Kobori Enshu, but while his influence is clear, he probably did not direct the design or construction. The two princes were, however, assisted by two of Enshu's brothers.
Now considered the prototypical stroll garden, it was actually conceived as a very large roji based on the tea garden style of the time and shows the characteristic flagstone and stepping stone paths, stone lantern and tsukubai stone wash basin.
With the south wind a gentle goddess came.
She soaked the bronze, she soaked the fountain,
She soaked the swallow's belly and its feathers of gold.
She hugged the tide, lapped the sand, drank the fish.
Secretly she soaked the temple, the bath-house, the theatre,
The confusion of her platinum lyre --
the tongue of the goddess -- secretly.
Soaked my tongue.
Nishiwaki Junzaburô trans. by Bownas and Thwaite 20th century