Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮) in Kyoto is an imperial leisure villa and landscape garden built in the 1700s by Japanese emperor Gomizuno. There are a total of 3 garden terraces that make up Shugakuin, and are renowned for their beauty and is one of Japan's most important large-scale cultural treasures.
Unlike other Imperial Villa’s, like Katsura Imperial Villa, Shugakuin's main attractions are the 3 landscape gardens, which have a series of traditional structures mixed in to complete the setting. A visit to Shugakuin is best enjoyed for its nature setting, panoramic views and seasonal changing garden terraces.
The garden terraces consist of the upper, middle and lower terrace. Each with their own thematics, each garden was created with expertise featuring ponds, small bridges and tea houses. Within the ponds are smaller islands connected by two long pathways lined with pine trees. It is said that the main pond was designed that on a clear day, the sky becomes one with its reflection in the water.
Tours of Shugakuin Imperial Villa
Most of the year the complex is only accessible through guided tours. A tour takes about 90 minutes, and explores all 3 terraces, a variety of historic buildings and how landscaping is performed. Tours are given in Japanese, and visual-audio tours are available in different languages, including English. Along the way are plenty of stops to make use of the many photogenic spots.
Booking a visit
Shugakuin is administered by the Imperial Household Agency, and while open to the public, prior reservations are required and are generally limited to guided tours. There are 3 ways to make a reservation: 1.) Online at the website of the Imperial Household Agency (website link below) 2.) Make a booking in person at the Imperial Household Agency's office in Kyoto Imperial Park. 3.) Get a walk-in ticket at Shugakuin Imperial Villa from 11:00 on a first-come first-serve basis.
Website for online reservation.
How to access Shugakuin Imperial Villa
Located in the north-east of Kyoto, Shugakuin is a bit remote from other parts in Kyoto. For convenient access and to save time a taxi is recommended.
Using public transport the best option is to use the Kyoto Metro and get out at Matsugasaki Station from here it's about 20 minutes on foot, or about 5 by taxi.