This is the first hall we see upon entering Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park. A lesser known gem, it is hidden right smack in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture in Japan.
Tamozawa Imperial Villa (田母沢御用邸, Tamozawa Goyōtei) was constructed in 1899 for Prince Yoshihito (later Emperor Taisho) as a retreat & it was also used by 3 other emperors & 3 princes until 1947. The residence was enlarged into a summer residence & retreat for the Imperial family but suffered great neglect after WWII.
This is the largest surviving wooden imperial residence erected during the Meiji & Taisho eras. It comprises 3 sections merged together, with representations of the best feature of Japanese architecture from the Edo, Meiji & Taisho eras respectively.
These Fusuma-e (襖) are painted-paper sliding doors mounted on Cedar board frames which were transferred from the Edo-naka-yashiki residence of Kishu Tokugawa family in Tokyo. There are 2 pairs of decorated sliding doors such as these installed at the northern side of the Study area & 9 other pairs found on the 1st & 2nd floors of the villa.
A beautiful floral motif gold-gilded sliding door holder with the Chrysanthemum Imperial crest or Kamon (家紋) in the centre. Heraldic crests were used widely to indicate one’s origins, family lineage, bloodline, ancestry & status especially in ancient times.
This Billard Room was added during the major Taisho-era renovation carried out between 1918 to 1921. It is noted that from the early days of the Meiji era, the Imperial family enjoyed playing Billards & especially the game of “Four Balls” on this very table.
In restoring Tamozawa Imperial Villa, the Tochigi Prefecture government had a team of experts, modern architects & artisans conduct a study on the techniques of each era, to authenticate & supervise the renovations closely. Have a closer look at the Roof, the tiles & the stylised eave details.
This section was added during the major Taisho era renovation & it is the Audience Chamber where the emperor would receive official visitors. Notice the chandeliers & carpeted flooring which is a curious mix of Japanese & Western styles blended together in the interior.
An interesting Japanese fan-shaped window with gold-gilded ornamentation on the lacquered wooden frame.
I love the arabesque motifs & the finesse in the workmanship involved in crafting each individual piece & note yet again the presence of the Imperial Seal of Japan the Chrysanthemum morifoilum kamon in the middle.
In the Lavatory is an Ofuro – cedar soaking tub & a latrine bucket, in the advent of the flushing system we are accustomed to today.
A touch of the West here with French Sliding doors in the Study Room that open up to a panoramic view of the wide sprawling gardens.
This round feature window is the only one of its kind in the entire villa & it is perhaps the most picturesque with a view of the 400 year old Weeping Cherry Tree (Shidarezakura-Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Rosea’) behind the Dining Room, the stone lantern & the lovely garden in one sweep.
Looking out of the window from the 2nd floor Waiting Room area & was originally part of the main 3-storey section of the Akasaka Detached Palace, Hana Goten. This Edo Feudal Residence was presented to the Imperial household in 1872 by the Kishu Tokugawa clan & transported from Tokyo to Nikko.
A long corridor like this links many smaller rooms in Tamozawa which numbers about 106 in total. Japanese Cedar Cyrptomeria japonica, better known as sugi is mainly used in the villa’s construction.
This is the most important room in the villa where the emperor executed his imperial duties & spent the most time when he was in residence.
The manicured gardens surrounding the villa makes a pleasant stroll & the maple trees would be blazing in their Autumn hues come late October & early November.
This is the Dining Room where the Imperial family had their meals & where banquets were hosted for visiting dignitaries on official visits.
The Empress’ bedchambers are devoid of furnishing as with all the other rooms throughout the villa, so you would just have to use a bit of imagination when seeing all these living spaces. This room is laid with traditional tatami (畳) mats which rose to its peak of development during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Prior to the mid 16th century, only the ruling nobility & samurai slept on tatami or woven mats called goza (茣蓙) whilst commoners used straw mats or loose straw for bedding.
The remnants of Spring – Delicate single-petalled Sakura. The Cherry blossom together with the Chrysanthemum are considered national flowers of Japan. Mono no aware (物の哀れ) literally “the pathos of things” is a wistful sadness & awareness of impermanence & the transience of life which the Sakura is seen by the Japanese, to embody.
The beautiful garden is full of ancient trees & there is even a winding stream that flows through the grounds of Tamozawa Imperial Villa.
It is interesting how most of the other flowering trees & shrubs lay bare, safe for this Weeping Sakura tree characterised by drooping branches that blooms in its full glory in April.
This is Training & Study Room No 7 at Tamozawa Imperial Villa which I like best. It has a little private enclosure with a miniature waterfall & landscaping. I can imagine reading here with birds chirping, gurgling waters & the occasional rustling of the trees in the gentle breeze.
This little rock tied in twine is called a Sekimori ishi (関守石). I wondered at first if it had any spiritual significance till I found out that it was a boundary guard stone. These stones are usually seen in Japanese gardens particularly those with teahouses, to guide visitors along a prescribed path. A smallish rock that sits well is preferred & the cord makes moving the stone easier. This is a tacit agreement, not a command or order for one not to enter the grounds & it is really genteel gestures such as this in the Japanese culture that fascinates me to no end.
Tamozawa Imperial Villa (田母沢御用邸, Tamozawa Goyōtei) was neglected after WWII & re-opened to the public after extensive restoration was completed in year 2000.
Tamozawa Imperial Villa is truly impressive in scale & grandeur even though it is only a third the size of the original area. It is now a Museum as well as memorial park with a well-kept Japanese style garden & a wooded area.
We assigned 2 full days to Nikko so that we could include a visit to Tamozawa Imperial Villa. This beautiful space with clean streamlined architecture holds an interesting place in history that awaits to be discovered & enjoyed by the visitor & it is well worth the ¥500 admission.