Katsura Imperial Villa: A Brief Descriptive Bibliography, with Illustrations

Dana Buntrock, University of California, Berkeley
Cover detail from Kenzo Tange's "Katsura: Tradition and Creation in Japanese Architecture" (1960).
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There are three imperial residences in Kyoto: Gosho (京都御所), rebuilt in 1855 and used for formal affairs even today; Shūgakuin (修学院離宮), a summer retreat on mountain slopes built in the mid-seventeenth century; and Katsura Imperial Retreat (桂離宮), slightly older than Shūgakuin. Upon the death of the Hachijō imperial line in 1881, Katsura came into the hands of the reigning household; shortly afterward, the Imperial Household Ministry was formed and took responsibility for the care of such sites. Sometimes grouped with the other residences, Nijō Palace was originally built not for the imperial household but for the warriors who effectively ruled Japan from the seventeenth to the middle of the nineteenth century; today, it too is managed by the Imperial Household Agency (the scope and name of the Imperial Household Ministry having changed at the end of World War II). Of these four, Katsura, with its extensive grounds and esteemed teahouses in addition to a large, shoin-style residence, is best known of all, used both at home and abroad to illustrate arguments about architecture and national tradition. Yet even so, much remains to be said about the complex, as demonstrated by this brief descriptive bibliography.

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