The Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮, Katsura Rikyū), or Katsura Detached Palace, is a villa with associated gardens and outbuildings in the western suburbs of Kyoto, Japan (in Nishikyō-ku, separate from the Kyoto Imperial Palace). It is one of Japan's most important large-scale cultural treasures.
Its gardens are a masterpiece of Japanese gardening, and the buildings are even more important, one of the greatest achievements of Japanese architecture. The palace includes a shoin ("drawing room"), tea houses, and a strolling garden. It provides an invaluable window into the villas of princes of the Edo period.
The palace formerly belonged to the princes of the Hachijō-no-miya (八条宮) family. The Imperial Household Agency administers it, and accepts visitors by appointment. The current Prince Katsura, whose title is an Imperial grant and is unrelated to the former Katsura-no-miya family, does not live there, but like all the other members of the Imperial Family lives in Tokyo.
Buildings and Gardens:
The Old Shoin, Middle Shoin and New Palace are each in the shoin style, with irimoya kokerabuki (柿葺) roofs. The Old Shoin was constructed by Prince Toshihito. It is composed of rooms with nine, ten, and fifteen tatami, and has ceilings supported by wooden slats. On the southern side, there is a room with a veranda attached, which shows elements of the sukiya style. A bamboo platform, created for moon-viewing, extends beyond the veranda. The Old Shoin was most likely built to accommodate a large amount of people at informal gatherings.
Compared to the Old Shoin, The Middle Shoin appears stiff. It is arranged in an L-shape, and at one end there is a tokonoma, and to its right there is a chigaidana (a staggered group of ornamental shelves). The walls of the tokonoma and chigaidana are decorated with ink paintings of landscapes, as well as the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. The Middle Shoin is said to have been built as the prince’s living quarters, which is evidenced by a bath and toilet. A veranda ran along two sides of the Middle Shoin and faced the garden.
Influence Outside Japan:
The buildings, and to a lesser extent the gardens, of Katsura became influential to a number of well known modernist architects in the 20th century via a book produced by Bruno Taut. Le Corbusier and especially Walter Gropius, who visited in 1953, found inspiration in the minimal and orthogonal design. Subsequently, Katsura become well known to a second wave of architects from Australia such as Philip Cox, Peter Muller and Neville Gruzman who visited in the late 1950s and 1960s.