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.
Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto
Only in the cloister
Could such a garden thrive, a soil where nature
Flowers in spiritual dryness,
Drawing an interior nurture
From sand and rock.
Where the labyrinth of illusion
No longer entangles the senses
Enmeshing vision in delusive lusters;
Where the lust of the eyes is silenced
And desire of forms, and names of forms,
Move to no visible end.
Those who planted here
Sowed no ephemeral seed
For the seasonal tempests to scatter,
But the silent root that ripens in detachment,
Flowers in renunciation.
Gardeners of eternity,
Those who planted here
Framed the garden in the image of a desert
And the desert in the image of a sea --
Then shrunk the seas to the mind's salt and, tasting,
Dissolved all thought away.
On these rocks no water breaks. Without attrition
Tides and currents in this ocean rest and revolve
In a void of sound, vortex of sand; perpetual
Circles enmesh and paralyzed sea and air:
The effigy of time and measure
Purged of time and measure
Becalmed on this dead sea of being
No wave moves, no wind of desire
Flexes the indolent sail.
But focussing its single eye
On dreamless immobility
The gulf like a burnished mirror
Regards the empty void.
In this dead sea of vision the surges
Merge without movement; the tides
Indifferent to flood and ebb
Freeze in a flux of haste.
The seagull without motion
Broods on the changeless waste,
Then sinks, his feathers frozen,
In a sand ocean.
Frail caravels who sail
This subtle gulf, morte mer,
Who stir with urgent keel
The fossil waters of the Great Mirage,
Or steer by lodestone to delusive ports:
In this calm beyond stasis, dead calm,
No compass points to the land,
No magnet of attachment
Guides the helmsman's hand
Through fifteen naked rocks in raked and rhythmic sand.
Here is no sea for the admirals,
The whalers, the merchants of cargoes --
Those finite venturers for the temporal haven.
These depths are destination,
And naufrage sweeter than harbor.
Shipwreck is haven on this inland sea.