We spent a day in Kyoto, a quick ride on the bullet train from Nagoya.
Our goal was to visit Katsura Rikyu (Imperial Villa).
Visiting Katsura Rikyu is a bit of a pain, it requires a permit from the Imperial Household Agency. We visited the Imperial Household Agency on the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Palace in central Kyoto first thing in the morning. There were numerous notices in Japanese saying that they do not issue permits for the current day. Luckily when we got to the counter we told the agent we were from outside the country and there were a couple of openings for that day.
With permit in hand we hurried to Katsura Rikyu. Katsura Rikyu is about an hour away from the Kyoto Imperial Palace, subway and then a 15 minute walk. On the walk we stumbled upon a very good wagashi (Japansese confectionery) store, Nakamuraken, right next to Katsura Rikyu. Since we were a bit early…
You are only allowed to view Katsura Rikyu via an hour guided tour by the Imperial Household Agency, so you can’t linger and fully take in the beautiful architecture and gardens.
Katsura Rikyu was built in the early 1600s and like most traditional Japanese architecture was designed for summer living. The summers are considered harsher than the winters, but the winters are cold and inhabitants have to suffer during those few months.
Unlike European villas and palaces, Katsura Rikyu is a very relaxing and peaceful place, a great example of how Japanese architecture brings the outdoors inside.