A beautiful destination often overlooked due to its location at the end of the winding bamboo forests of Arashiyama, the Ōkōchi Sansō Villa is the former residence of Japanese period film star Ōkōchi Denjirō (1898-1962). Located in the foothills of Mt. Ogura, Ōkōchi’s Villa includes a traditional home, tea house, and Buddhist halls on the property amidst carefully planned and cultivated Japanese-style gardens designed to showcase the best of each of the four seasons. Despite being constructed relatively recently, the villa employs classic architecture and traditional techniques, appearing far statelier than its age would imply. The villa is also well known for its view of Kyoto City spread out below it. Though the admission fee is steeper than most of its kind, the price includes a cup of green tea and a Japanese sweet served in the teahouse where you can relax and rest your feet while enjoying the view. Fans of the samurai film genre can also enjoy an open air museum dedicated to the villa’s original owner and jidaigeki actor Ōkōchi Denjirō.
Despite being constructed relatively recently, the villa employs classic architecture and traditional techniques, appearing far statelier than its age would imply.
The pleasant stroll through Ōkōchi Sansō is undoubtedly what makes the trip to the removed villa worth it. A few stairs take visitors up through pines to a simple gate where the journey begins, with the path first leading to a simple temple hall called Daijōkaku surrounded by lovely greenery. The path winds through tall hedges just wide enough for people to walk single-file and leads on to the small Jibutsu-dō hall, and then onward to a beautiful view of the Hozugawa river and the Arashiyama mountains. Continuing takes you past a small moss garden and a traditional tea room, and on to yet another last mountain view- this time facing towards Kyoto City itself.
Ōkochi Denjiro Museum
After your stroll in the garden don’t miss out on the small open-air museum dedicated to the villa’s creator, period film star Ōkōchi Denjirō. Famous for his roles in samurai sword flicks, the area features photographs of Denjirō at work on set, poster art from some of his more famous roles, and videos in Japanese about his life and the villa. Fans of the chanbara sword fighting film genre are sure to get a kick out of this tribute to one of the early stars.
Largely overlooked by visitors, tucked away just off the main path is Myōkō-an, a hall used for meditation and sutra copying. Renewed recently in the 50th anniversary of Denjirō’s passing, the hall used to be where the star’s wife, Taeka, lived. A clean, open hall with a pleasant garden view on one side and the tops of trees on the other, it’s a perfect place to relax and meditate, or take a seat at one of the four desks that offer paper, pen, and words of sutras, poems, and even English songs to ritually copy down. Those seeking respite from a busy tour day or crowds can enjoy some peace here- though please note that children under 15 are not allowed in the Myōkō-an. There may be unscheduled days in which the Myōkō-an is closed.
Built over the years by the period film star Ōkōchi Denjirō (1898-1962) in the early 1900’s to function as the actor’s estate, the Ōkōchi Sansō garden began first with the small Buddhist shrine on the property. A Meiji Era building, the Jibutsu-dō was moved to its current location at Denjirō’s request. During work it’s said he would come to the Jibutsu-dō to meditate and gather his thoughts, and the rest of the estate was founded gradually outwards from there.
The other buildings on the grounds, including the Daijōkaku temple hall and Tekisui-an tea room were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and the garden planned around them with Denjirō’s creative input. When the actor passed away in 1962 at the age of 64, the estate passed to the hands of his wife, Taeka, who continued to manage the villa and eventually decided to open the garden to the public. To this day, family continues to maintain the estate.
〒616-8394 京都府京都市 右京区嵯峨小倉山田淵山町4
- General Admission: ¥1,000
- Elementary and Junior High School Students: ¥500
- Persons with Disabilities: ¥500
- General Admission: 09:00 - 17:00
- Closed: No closing days
- From Keifuku Dentetsu Arashiyama Line ⇒ Get off at Arashiyama Station, walk 15 minutes through bamboo forest
- From JR Sagano Line ⇒ Get off at Saga Arashiyama Station, walk 20 minutes through bamboo forest