The Katsura Imperial Villa, or Katsura-Rikyu, located in Kyoto and originally built as a holiday home for the Imperial family, will welcome more visitors from Nov. 1 at a charge of ¥1,000 for those aged 18 or older, the Imperial Household Agency said Tuesday.
The maximum number of visitors will be raised to 480 — more than double the current limit of 210. The number of one-hour tours conducted each day will increase fourfold from six to 24, with five being given in English.
Currently, only those aged 18 or older can enter the villa, which was constructed in the 17th century and well-known for its beautiful Japanese garden. But from November, the age threshold will be lowered to 12.
To cover expenses for the expanded operations, the agency will collect admission fees for the first time at properties it manages.
“We will be charging the fee to offset the costs of maintaining and managing the villa, and providing better services to the visitors,” an official at the agency’s Kyoto office told The Japan Times.
“I hope many visitors will take the time to visit and enjoy the villa,” the official added.
Other properties such as the Imperial Palace in Tokyo as well as its Inui Street, where pedestrians can view cherry blossoms and autumn foliage, and the Kyoto Imperial Palace will continue to accept visitors free of charge.
Facilitating access to the villa was a response to the current government’s efforts to increase inbound tourists to Japan, the official explained.
The number of visitors to the Imperial Palace has almost doubled from some 62,000 in 2013 to around 113,000 in 2017, according to a report by the agency.
About 22 percent of visitors in 2013 were foreign tourists, but that rate had soared to some 49 percent by 2017, the report showed.
In recent years, the agency has been making an effort to widen public access to properties and artifacts related to the Imperial Family. From last year it has been discussing plans to build extensions to Sannomaru Shozokan, or the Museum of the Imperial Collections in Tokyo, and increase the number of items on display to the public.
Click here for information regarding visitor access to the Katsura Imperial Villa.