Shugakuin Imperial Villa
Shugakuin Imperial Villa
4.5
About
Created as an imperial summer retreat, the garden complex is a fine example of Japanese landscape design.
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The area
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Neighbourhood: Northern Kyoto
Hot springs and historic temples characterize the leafy landscapes of Northern Kyoto. Acres of tranquil residential streets are interrupted by some of Kyoto's most gorgeous architectural gems, including the majestic Golden Pavilion of Kinkakuji, the serene artistry of the Ryoanji Temple rock gardens, and the bold red paint across the structures of Enryakuji Temple. Once a religious core of the city, the district now boasts some of its most remote and peaceful hot springs, as well as a few of its best family-run mom-and-pop restaurants. A blend of extremely local at its outskirts, and highly peopled at its tourist centers, Northern Kyoto nonetheless retains a halcyon air in harmony with nature.
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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles406 reviews
Excellent
277
Very good
101
Average
22
Poor
5
Terrible
1

Global715255
Tokyo, Japan20,244 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2023 • Solo
You have to do advance booking and only 50 people for each tour is allowed in but it is worth it. The view overlooking Kyoto and the surrounded mountains like Mount Hiei was amazing. The autumn foliage was also very beautiful at the beginning of November.
Written 26 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Yura M
4 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2023
Shugakuin Imperial Villa quickly became my favorite spot in the area. Stepping through its gates, you're greeted by a vast expanse of land, complete with rice paddies—exactly what you'd expect from an imperial retreat in Japan.

A guided tour in English is provided, which seems more like a measure to keep visitors from wandering off the designated path than a mere service. Personally, I would have preferred to explore in silence, absorbing the serene beauty at my own pace.
Despite the guided narration, tuning out to solely focus on the unique architecture and the harmony of the buildings with nature was a truly enriching experience. And amazingly, it's all free of charge.

Shugakuin Imperial Villa offers a tranquil yet profound experience, its expansive grounds and distinctive ambiance leaving a lasting impression on visitors.
Written 25 November 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

מריה ר
2 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2023 • Couples
The location itself and the garden were very beautiful!
However, the tour experience for non-Japanese speakers was awful. Firstly, you couldn't access the garden without a guided tour. The tour was conducted only in Japanese, and while they offered an audio guide at the reception, no one informed us of this, even though they provided us with an English brochure at the reception desk. Unfortunately, once the tour began, there was no opportunity to go back and get the audio guide.

Secondly, the Japanese guide used a microphone, so even if you had the audio guide, it was challenging to hear due to the Japanese guide's speaking over the microphone.

Lastly, you were required to stay close to the guide at all times; there was no option to step aside if you wanted to listen to the audio guide. Additionally, there was always another guard following the group with a stick and a bell.

It was an hour and a half that I definitely could have spent more efficiently.
Written 29 September 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

John W
Jindabyne, Australia563 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2020 • Solo
The villa is in three widely separated sections connected by gravel paths. These paths are well graded and easy but the villa gardens contain many steps. The whole tour takes a good hour. An audio device (free) provides a commentary in one of five languages, including English. Though the tour is free, restriction of numbers by the Imperial Household Agency, and lately coronavirus, means that the tour is uncrowded and unhurried, though the minder bringing up the rear is fond of his two-word English vocabulary: Catch up.
The villas are set among terraced fields that have been bought up to preserve the rural setting. The buildings have a classic simplicity, and the gardens range from carefully arranged wilderness to the tame landscape surrounding the pond below the uppermost tea house. A leisurely stop at this tea house gives opportunity to view the parkland below and the borrowed scenery: the city beyond and the northern hills stretching into the distance.
Written 15 March 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

mari
5 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Nov 2019
i'm glad i did a early book of this tour. .the aesthetic ! and lwarning little arigato here . .i highly recommend and do early tickets .
Written 9 March 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Boabin
Seoul, South Korea72 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2020
A lot of the reviews do agree that you can get access if you are already in Kyoto, sometimes they have free slots in other tours. This can be fine during low seasons but I think during the cherry blossom and fall it would be best to secure a ticket in advance, just in case.
It is free, which is brilliant for anyone wanting to rein in their spending whilst visiting the city. The tour itself is in Japanese, you can pick up a free headset in English at reception to understand the grounds and villa. Each site is numbered, follow those numbers to listen to each track.
The views are spectacular and worth seeing. There is a lot of culture artistically embedded throughout the buildings and garden. Truly a national wonder. Obviously the pond is the main highlight and most photographed but don't neglect to look carefully at the doors inside the buildings or the hidden waterfalls.
Written 29 January 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

thesouplady-two
London, UK272 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2019 • Friends
Getting to see these lovely villas - available only by permission of the Imperial Household Agency - is actually fairly easy to do. Despite online information to the contrary, it is actually easy to get tickets in Kyoto. Just visit the Imperial Household agency office right on the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and they will do their leave best to fit you in. We had absolutely no issues at all. And not only are the tickets free, the audio guide is free as well. And of course the gardens and villas are glorious. 300 plus years of careful gardening does make a difference. And the restriction on tickets means that you are not fighting crowds - you can easily enjoy the views, the vistas, and the glorious villas and tea rooms at a snails pace. So worth it!
Written 15 May 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ozteddy
Brisbane, Australia437 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Mar 2019 • Couples
After four trips to Kyoto we finally made it to Shugakuin after getting tickets online three months previously and it was well worth doing. The tour is conducted in Japanese but there is an English audio guide free which helps explain things. We had a small group, probably about 25 for the first walk of the day, and the pace was easy to manage although there is a 'minder' who tags along behind to make sure you keep up and don't wander off. Still there was plenty of time to take photos and enjoy the scenery. It is a very large garden and the tour heads up hill to the highest point where you get a great view of both the garden and the city below across the lake. Some lovely buildings which you don't go into, are scattered around the grounds.
It is out of town and getting there by the allocated time takes some working out, as the bus time (the most direct) can vary greatly with traffic. We were advised to take the subway (north- south line) from the station to the last stop and get a taxi - there is also a bus from that station, but like the city bus it still leaves you with a 15 minute walk uphill to the Villa. The taxi cost less than $10.00 and took us to the gate - the way to go, and we did the entire journey in 1/2 hour.
Written 19 April 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Elizabeth C
Kennett Square, PA24 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2018 • Friends
Once you have the necessary clearance this garden offers a splendid view of the whole city of Kyoto, with great vistas as you ascend and then walk through the gardens. An archetypal garden.
Written 23 October 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Dragonhung
San Frandcisco37 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2018 • Couples
We took public transport there (bus #5, fare 230 yen exact change) and walk back to Westin Miyako hotel. It's the best garden we have seen in Japan. You need to have a reservation (appointment made online -- reservation calendar opens a month in advance ). You need to have your reservation application number and your passport with you. A bit of a shlepp but totally worth it. Plan ahead!!
Written 28 September 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Shugakuin Imperial Villa (2024) All You MUST Know Before You Go (with Photos)

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