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Designed to Capture the Moon

Cultural Quintessence

Japan In-depth

Kateigaho International Edition

Designed to Capture the Moon

The middle room in the Gepparo pavilion, facing the pond, has the building's best view of the harvest moon. The kagetsu plaque is thought to bear the inscription of Emperor Reigen (1663-1687).

The garden pavilion called Shokintei lies in front of the main hall, separated from it by the pond. On the near side is a bridge located to provide a moon view.

The so-called first room in the Gepparo pavilion is actually a vestibule with bamboo ceiling. A small window in the tokonoma alcove was designed to illuminate calligraphy that was displayed there.

The ranma (open screenwork) that separates the first and second rooms in the Shingoten hall resembles a cursive rendition of the kanji character for moon. The design has quite a modern look.

A scenic place where the summer homes of the Imperial family have been maintained since ancient times, Kyoto's Katsura district is famous as a place to view the moon. This was the fictional setting of Prince Genji's manor, described in The Tale of Genji. In fact, this epic novel, written in the early 11th century, was the favorite reading of Prince Toshihito, who began construction of Katsura Rikyu in the 1620s. His son, Prince Toshitada, inherited the grounds, now known as Katsura-no-miya and undertook renovation and expansion in the 1640s, adding teahouses and pavilions and refashioning the garden into its present shape.
Katsura Imperial Villa is known as a moon-viewing palace. The garden is intended for strolling, laid out around a central pond, with trees planted along manmade mounds. Paths wind around the pond, leading to spaces for admiring the moon. The drawing rooms of three buildings extend from east to south, aligned exactly and at an elevation to provide the best view of the harvest moon. The Gepparo (Moon-wave Pavilion), which dates to Toshihito's era, sits perfectly positioned for viewing the reflection of the moon on the water. In his main house, he situated the tsukimidai (moon-viewing balcony) to enjoy the moonrise.
The central pond, its main island, shinsen (fairy) islands, and a sandy peninsula were patterned after such famous places of scenic beauty as Ama-no-hashidate on the Sea of Japan (one of the so-called three most famous views in the country).

Katsura Rikyu
Katsura-kiyomizu cho
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto

To visit, apply in person to the Imperial Household Agency, Kyoto Office (Kyoto Gyoen 3, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8611). Applications are processed on weekdays (except holidays). Hours are 8:45 AM to noon and from 1 to 4 PM. Obtain forms in advance by writing the Agency; bring passport or other valid identification. Tours are given daily except the third Saturday of each month, Sundays, national holidays, and December 28 to January 4.

brightly shines
brightly brightly shining
brightly shines
brightly brightly shining
bright and clear the moon


This low, stone Sanko-style lantern stands beside the boat landing in front of the Shoiken pavilion. Designed to illuminate the pond surface and the path to the boats, its light chamber is close to the ground.

Shaped like the moon, exquisitely wrought door pulls adorn fusuma sliding doors along the side of a beautiful writing alcove that reflects the taste of the retired emperor.

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