Okochi Sanso Villa is the former home of the Japanese period film actor, Denjiro Okochi (1898-1962). The villa gardens are a particularly sublime and outstanding example of a traditional Japanese garden. The majority of its structures were built in the 1930s and 1940s, leaving them in prime condition for exploring.
Getting here you’ll pass the very popular Tenryu-ji Temple, and walk through the breathtaking Bamboo Groves of Arashiyama. A lot of tourists are put off when spotting the entrance fee of ¥1000, especially after walking through the amazing and free Bamboo forest. But, I implore you to just spend the money and wander up the path to the gardens; you won’t regret it one bit.
The villa grounds span across a huge 20,000 square meters, filled with beautiful gardens and impressive architecture. The buildings include the villa’s Japanese house, a few tearooms, and a couple of Shinto shrines all dotted around throughout the multi-level garden.
Twisting paths and tiny cobblestone steps take you up and around the garden that was specifically designed to show off every season. So, no matter when you visit, you’ll always have some great foliage to admire. Located on the slopes of Mount Ogura, the garden has many viewpoints where you can get a great view out across the trees, of Kyoto City below.
Towards the end of the routed pathway is the main teahouse. If you managed not to lose your entrance ticket, you can enter this tranquil building and be served a free cup of traditional hot matcha tea with a sweet. Depending on which direction you face when sitting, you’ll either have a view of the Japanese house and garden, or a view down through the bamboo trees below. Either way, you can’t really complain!
Okochi Sanso Villa and Gardens really is one of the most beautiful places in Kyoto. Many people actually suggest going here rather than the Imperial Palace that you have a sign up for, and be shown around at a set pace. I’m definitely one of those people suggesting this, as you have the freedom to go around the garden at your own pace, and as many times as you like! So long as you don’t leave the ground entirely.
If in Kyoto you’re almost guaranteed to visit the Arashiyama area at some point. So when you do, be sure not to miss out on the Okochi Sanso Villa, gardens and tea house.