Tamozawa Imperial Villa: where emperors lived

A JAPANESE house, I’ve always wanted to live in one, or at least one designed like it. But to achieve the look of minimalism, one has to have, if not master it, the discipline of the Japanese.

Inside the 1899-built Tamozawa Imperial Villa in Nikko, Japan. This is my favorite spot overlooking the interior pocket garden

Uncluttered, keeping only the necessary— from personal belongings to décor—to fill the home will be a challenge for me.

I’m holding on to the vision, with enough hard work (and prayer) anything can happen.

Too tall to be an imperial resident.

In a trip to the mountains of Nikko in the Tochigi Prefecture of Japan, I was able to visit a home that I could draw in inspiration from. To be able to step into an authentic Japanese house that I have painted in my imagination is just awesome. This one though is bigger—a villa with 106 rooms, and this was where three emperors and three princes of Japan, including Akihito (in 1944), have resided between 1899 and 1947.

Unsuccessfully mimicking a ninja before entering the main doors of the imperial villa.
Tamozawa Imperial Villa seen from the back

Tamozawa Imperial Villa’s design calms the vision of the observer with its simplicity after a visit to the ornately created temples and shrines of the inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nikko. The picture, a villa embraced by manicured gardens, is Zen-like.

Entrance fee per person is It’s 500yen

No shoes in the villa. .Socks were provided.

The fall season’s foliage of bright reds provided the perfect frame for the wood and white structure and greens of the immaculately composed lawn. The 400-year old weeping cherry tree is one of its prominent features.

The fall season is a good time to see the place.

One of the compound’sattraction, a 400-year old weeping cherry tree

Built in Nikko in the year of the Meiji (1899) as a vacation house for Prince Yoshihito (the Taisho emperor), Tamozawa Imperial Villa is one of the largest wooden structures among all the imperial villas in Japan with 4,500 square meters of floor area.

 Passageways. Perhaps the Inner and outer corridors were designated for use according to status.

The edifice has been used as an imperial villa through the course of three eras—Edo, Meiji and Taisho, and is considered as a structure of historical and cultural importance.

A picture window

The present structure have been modified and enlarged in the early 20th century (1918-2920). The villa’s original structure though came from Tokyo. The third floor of the Akasaka Imperial Palace (the official Temporary Imperial Palace where the Meiji Emperor resided between 1872 and 1888), where the emperor conducted matters of the state, was dismantled and reassembled in Nikko.

An important room in the villa
A room for the Minister Secretariat of the Imperial Household

Its architectural style blends the traditional Edo and early modern Meijo displaying the Sikiya-Shonin style and Court style. Touches of Western appointments, like chandeliers and carpeting, have been adapted into its interiors.

The upper floor room with a view of the gardens
Exterior details
The villa was built in the style of traditional Edo & early modern Meijo. Western touches were adapted into its interior design

Of the materials transferred from the Edo-nakayashiki residence of the Kishu Tokugawa family, included are the two pairs paper sliding doors and nine pairs of cedar door with paintings of the owner’s personal painters and other masters. These are displayed part of the displays in the villa.

Paper sliding doors transferred from the Edo-nakayashiki residence of the Kishu Tokugawa family in Tokyo. Paintings are by the owner’s personal painters
Detail of door painting.
The 2nd floor of one of the largest remaining wooden buildings in Japan. Take note of the painted Cedar door panels

Painting on a cedar door
Detail of knob used for paper sliding door

So are the tatami mats. What may seem as an expected detail in a Japanese home is actually designed differently according to its use. The details on the silken or cloth trimming of the mats identify where it should be used— pattern of small flowers trim the mats of the Emperor’s room; for the Empress’s room, the tatami edging is unpatterned silk; and for the “Kenji no Ma”, where the sacred treasures are displayed, the “ungen-beri” is used, a special trimming exclusively used for the imperial family and Shinto shrines.

Tatami mat trimming. Designed according to use.

The corridors are situated along the perimeters giving access to the different rooms of the villa. My favorite was the one that opens to the garden. I swear I can stay there all day.

My favorite room in the house.

The memorial may seem grand, but believe it or not, Tamozawa Imperial Villa currently occupies only one third of its original area.

The Tamozawa Imperial Villa then
The site plan of the Imperial Villa. It occupies 1/3 of the original area.

In the year 2000, two years after the Tochigi Prefectural Government began its restoration, the villa was opened to the public as a memorial park and a place of study showcasing the skills and traditions of its architectural achievements to inspire the future generations.

Tamozawa Imperial Villa: restored & showcased to inspire the future generation

Yes, I left the place inspired and wanting to have my own Japanese-inspired place. Before that materializes, I should know which pieces I an only take with me to this dream home.

My hosts & tour guides- Tito Obet, Bunny & Max Castillo.

*****




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