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Rakuhoku Area洛北エリア

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The magnificent and noble Shugaku-in Imperial Villa located in the ancient capital. Enjoy the peaceful tranquility of Kyoto in the Rakuhoku area. Also enjoy Takano, a fashionable street in a historic site along the river. And Enko-ji Temple, built as a school by the first shogun of Tokugawa.

Among the many historical monuments in Kyoto, Shugaku-in-rikyu Imperial Villa sits in the most spacious grounds (approximately 540,000 square meters) complete with arable fields. The harmony of peacefulness and nobleness achieved there cannot be found at any other historical site. Built by the government in the 17th century as a retirement retreat for Emperor Go-Mizuno-o, it is still one of the most glorious villas in Japan. It features magnificent and graceful gardens, borrowing scenery from its backdrop, Mt. Shugaku-in-yama.
Since Shugaku-in-rikyu Imperial Villa is not generally open to the public, visitors must apply for a visit in advance with the Imperial Household Agency. This agency administers the villa, keeping it well maintained and preserved. This is a must-see attraction and a visit is well-worth applying for.
Teahouses are dispersed throughout the Upper, Middle and Lower Gardens (Kami-no-ochaya, Naka-no-ochaya and Shimo-no-ochaya, respectively) and connected by a graveled path called "O-uma-michi" (bridle path). Along the path lined with pine trees are arable fields that are leased out to the public.

There are a number of other tourist attractions scattered around Shugaku-in-rikyu Imperial Villa. Sekizan-zen'in Temple near the villa is a neat and tidy Zen temple. In fall, colored leaves along the approach way give the area an atmosphere synonymous with Kyoto. Manju-in Temple is famous for its garden as well as its simple but elegant thatched roof architectural style, known as 'shoin-zukuri.' Shisen-do Temple has a 'shoin' (study room) surrounded by luxuriant green bamboo and a dry landscape garden, or Zen garden, known as 'karesansui.' Souzu, also called "shishi-odoshi" (dear-scarer), is a traditional Japanese water fountain made with a bamboo pipe originally used to scare away deer. The weight of the water filling up the pipe causes it to tip over periodically and make a sharp sound, which is intended to scare away deer and other animals. The sound made by the souzu only seems to deepen the surrounding silence. The only public transportation to the area is the bus. While this may seem inconvenient, the chance to enjoy the peaceful silence of Kyoto is worth making the trip.

The nearby Takano district is located along the Takano-gawa River at the eastern foot of Mt. Hiei-zan, with Kawabata-dori Street running through it from north to south. Near the Ichijoji Station (Eizan Dentetsu Eizan Line), alongside the Takano-gawa River, is Enko-ji Temple. It was founded by the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, as a school to encourage the development of mathematics in the 17th century. Enko-ji Temple preserves a number of books imported from Korea, as well as wooden print blocks used for publishing during the Edo Period. Shisen-do, next to the Enko-ji Temple, is where the portraits of thirty-six Chinese poets are drawn on the four walls.

On Shirakawa-dori Street, which served as the pivot in the highway from Kyoto through Ohara to Omi (now known as Shiga), there used to be teashops for the weary travelers, but now it has been transformed into a merry shopping area with fashionable boutiques, fashion goods shops and coffee shops, and it is always crowded with young people.

Directions

From Tokyo :
[Rail] 2h 15 min to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line (Nozomi), and 20 min from Kyoto Station to Shugaku-in Imperial Road by bus.
* It takes 2h 45 min from Tokyo to Kyoto by Hikari Shinkansen.
From Osaka :
[Rail] 28 min to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Line (new rapid service).

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