Katsura Rikyu Imperial Villa, Kyoto
Tel: 81 075 211 1215
Concierge.com's insider take:
Built in the 17th century for an imperial prince, Katsura Rikyu is widely thought to be one of the best examples of how Japanese residential design masterfully integrates nature with architecture. As you walk through the villa, the views of the garden—which incorporates images from the classic Tale of Genji—change with each step. You must make reservations far in advance through the Imperial Household Agency. Instructions are on the agency's website, though you may ask your travel agent or hotel to handle arrangements for you, or stop by the Imperial Household Agency headquarters in Kyoto (3 Kyotogyoen, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto). Childreneven teenagersare not allowed, and tours are only in Japanese, though you can slip on a pair of headphones and listen to a pre-recorded audio tour in English. If you want to understand why traditional Japanese building techniques and aesthetics continue to influence architects and designers worldwide, it's worth the effort.