Shagaku-in Imperial Villa Gardens

The villa was built in 1659 by the Emperor Gumizuno as a place of retirement and subsequently restored in 1824. The complex comprises 3 villas set in about 133 acres at the foot of Mount Hiei with fine panoramic views of the distant mountains to the north and east. These form a backdrop to the garden and are an excellent example of this form of shakkei (borrowed landscape). Each villa is set at different heights.

Passing through the bamboo front gate and across the pebbled courtyard, through the Miyuki entrance towards the lower villa, the path passes through glades of acer and cherry crossing via an island in the pond. The understory here is filled with azaleas set in a carpet of moss. The acer leaves have just started to fall and are carefully left on the moss in places as if by artistic arrangement.

There are two stone lanterns by the pond and another nearer the lower villa. The garden adjacent to the villa is that of stepping stones set in white gravel.


From here the path is lined with dwarf pines and rises up the hillside leaving the middle villa across the rice fields on to the upper villa and the Kyusui teahouse overlooking the dragon bathing pond.