Shugakuin Treedom /Kyoto/

The trees were “color faded out” according to the report attached below, a thorough report on the state of the changing of the autumn leaves. The Japanese are very precise about the viewing of autumn leaves and provide well documented information.


The visit to the Shugakuin villa is by reservation only and when you show up at the front gates it looks like a nondescript place. The villa is set in an obscure location in the eastern part of Kyoto. It was a 40 minute taxi ride and it felt much longer as we fought local traffic.

Upon our arrival we all gathered in typical Japanese form to wait in a small hall for all the invitees to arrive. We were told the visit is 1h20 minutes long and there is no turning back once you start the tour. The property is large and spread out but you feel a sense of intimacy as you walk. You can move easily between the villas as the pathways are well-groomed and the landscape is beautiful. Surrounded by a farming community and a large forest backdrop, the fresh air cools down as the sun shines onto your face.


It was cold and mostly sunny day and most of the trees colors were faded out. This year we were late to see the peak period but it didn’t matter because the tour was a refreshing walk in nature. Flanked by trees and many impressive elements, each one is almost perfectly placed. Within the confines of nature, the forest’s trees are tall, and in the foreground a long view into Kyoto city and the rolling tree tops.

Conveniently you have audio in English which helps pass the time and provide explanations about the history and the surrounding area. The pine trees were planted last century and are prized for their practical uses and attractive appearance. Inside the first approach to the villa is a walk down a corridor set with manicured Japanese pine trees.


The property is made up of three villas and the walk through the natural landscapes, farmers still farm the gardens and rice fields are still cultivated around the three villas.


You wind through the property, the shadows of Japanese maples trees, reflections of light and the feeling of being inside the forest, a place of meditation.


There are no large-scale buildings as there is at the Katsura Imperial Villa and this 53-hectare estate includes the upper garden views and the water landscape.


The last walk at Shugakuin is around the small pond and the majestic garden there is designed to allow visitors to enjoy reflections on the pond while walking around the pond. This is a perfect example of Japanese tea ceremony landscape, a place of contemplation, a way of tea, a spiritual place and respect for nature.

If you travel to Kyoto be sure to arrange all visits well in advance or you risk the chance of missing the opportunity.