Katsura Imperial Villa (Katsura Rikyu) is one of the finest examples of purely Japanese architecture and garden design. The villa and garden in their present form were completed in 1645 as the residence for the Katsura Family, members of Japan's Imperial Family.
The villa can be viewed only on tours held by the Imperial Household Agency. They last about one hour and are in Japanese only, however, an English audio guide is available. During the tour, the tour group walks along the garden's circular walking trail around the central pond. The palace buildings can be viewed only from the outside. Photographing is allowed only from a few designated spots.
Katsura Rikyu is located in western Kyoto, a 15 minute walk from Katsura Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line. Alternatively, you can reach the villa by Kyoto City Bus number 33 from Kyoto Station in about 20 minutes. Get off at "Katsura Rikyu-mae" bus stop.
Free tours of Katsura Imperial Villa are held several times daily in Japanese only. No tours are held on Sundays and national holidays. Most Saturdays are also unavailable. Check with the agency for an up to date schedule.
To book a tour, you need to apply in advance with your passport at the Imperial Household Agency's office in Kyoto Imperial Park. Reservations are often possible on the same day as the intended visit. The agency office is open Monday to Friday from 8:45 to 12:00 and from 13:00 to 17:00.
Additionally, a small number of tour spots are available for reservation over the agency's website (see links below), however, these often get booked out. Online reservations must be completed several days before the intended visit.