Katsura Rikyu
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Katsura Rikyu

As soon as you get to Kyoto, go to the Imperial Household Agency and see if there are any spots left for touring Katsura Rikyu, arguably the most beautiful house in Japan. It’s actually easier to get in as a foreigner than as a Japanese citizen, but either way, admissions are limited—which means you can enjoy this astounding villa without a crowd. Built in the early 1600s, the villa is a collection of classic Japanese buildings, with interiors resplendent with polished wood, shojis, tatamis and fusumas (painted, movable wall screens), and surrounded by a garden that was so meticulously art-directed that scouts were sent around the country to find identical stones to line the pond. If you’ve ever marveled at Japanese design, this is the most perfect example.

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