Protected from the massive touristy crowd thanks to its onerous entrance fee, the private alleys of Okochi Sanso keep their tranquility year-round. We owe this remarkable villa to the investment of its owner, Okochi Denjiro (1898-1962), who devoted about thirty years and most of his wealth to the building and maintenance of his beloved home. Today, this former movie star of jidai-geki (historical movies about samurai) presents to curious travelers a historical promenade, full of charm.
The garden itself spreads across 5 acres (2 hectares), making it easy to get lost in the various pavilions and sinuous paths. Diving into the surrounding forests reveals the beauty of the site, which results in incorporating background landscape into the composition of a man-made garden: a specific style called shakkei, meaning "borrowed scenery."
The green shades change depending on the season, with the trees’ leaves, the carpet of moss, the lawn, and more groves. Flowers are quite rare, and it is advised to come when the cherry trees are blossoming or during fall, when the colors are beautiful, changing from pink to red and orange.
The views from Mount Hiei, Daimon-ji, and Mt Arashi, surrounding Kyoto, offer delightful panoramas with clear skies. When fall arrives, the mountains can be hidden in the mist evaporating from the Hozu river nestled below.
The indoors of the villa are not open to the public. However, it is possible to taste matcha tea offered during the visit outside or in a specific room, bordered by trees and bamboo.
Okochi Sanso introduced a good idea for a visit at the end of the day, smoothly finishing a long day of walking around the northwest part of Kyoto.
How to get to Okochi Sanso
By bus -- #11 or 93 lines, Nonomiya stop then a 5-minute walk
By train -- JR Sagano Line, Saga Arashiyama Station or, Keifuku Line, Arashiyama Station then a 10-minute walk
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 281)
Entrance with matcha + Japanese sweet:
- Adults: ¥1,000 (~US$ 9.30)
- Students and children: ¥500 (~US$ 4.70)
Get your Japanese Yens free of charge
Open daily from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
大河内山荘庭園 (Okochi Sanso Teien)