Visiting Tamozawa Imperial Villa in Nikko

The Japanese know a thing or two about aesthetics.



The round window of this Imperial Villa frames the garden and draws your attention across to the other section of the Tamozawa palace.  A contrasting viewpoint is provided by the more typical square window just adjacent.  I can imagine a princess or Emperor, dressed in silken kimono, sitting here quietly contemplating the carefully crafted garden in times long past.

The rear of the palace from the garden

One of the biggest wooden buildings in Japan, the Tamozawa Imperial Villa in Nikko is now a museum, perfectly restored and preserved to show how the Japanese royalty once lived.  Its history goes back to 1632 when the 3-storey section (in picture above) was built in Tokyo by Empress Meisho for her relatives.  It was deconstructed and moved to Nikko’s cooler climate in 1898 where it was extended and used by the Emperor as a summer retreat until WW2. After the war it fell into disrepair until 2000 when it was opened as a museum.

Glimpses of the garden framed by the sliding paper doors

The building showcases the best of traditional Japanese architecture.  Paper screens and sliding doors divide the rooms and while many of the floors are covered in tatami mats, there are Western influences too, not least the delicately patterned carpet in some of the more formal areas.

This carpet is unusual in a traditional Japanese building


Furnishings are sparse and no pictures or portraits hang on the walls, but interest is provided by beautifully painted screens and doors on interior walls, and of course, the large doors which peel back to reveal the gardens.

Painted sliding doors
Bringing the outside in

The palace is well worth a look if you are in Nikko and interested in seeing a traditional building.  We spent two days there and so had plenty of time to see the Toshogu Shrine as well as the palace.  Nikko is easily reached by train from Tokyo and it is possible to do it as a day trip, although you would probably feel a little rushed.

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