On the southern edge of the Imperial Palace park is a little gem of a tea house called Shusuitei. It was build about 200 years ago as part of the much larger estate of the Kujo family (九條家) of aristocrats. The estate was, at 35000m2, the largest of the imperial grounds (save for the palace itself of course!), which at the time was filled with large and the 'small' properties of the members the imperial court. On the property grounds was a massive 12500m2 house which was almost completely torn down, leaving the 130m2 tea room as the only building standing today.
The tea house is located at the edge of a pond inhabited by carps and turtles. The second character of the name (翠) is an old one for green, and comes from the numerous kingfisher which can be also found around the pond. The building is surrounded by maple trees and has a beautiful crape myrtle (サルスベリ) growing right in front of the main terrace, both contributing to great autumn colours. As can be expected by its function and construction date the building itself is in the classic sukiya style, guaranteeing tons of little details that you can try to spot (you'll be on your own though, for there is no tour nor guide). For example, the shoji (paper partitions - 障子) are made in a specific manner that shows a thin darker line in the middle of the paper. This shows a higher craftsmanship and price, and is rarely seen today (if you're lucky to have visited Koho-an in Daitoku-ji you may have spotted that pattern there too).
On the ground floor is the main room which opens on a wide balcony with a classic tsukubai basin (蹲踞) on its left. The baluster is here to remind of the deck of a ship, giving the impression of floating on the pond water. Of course one needs a very poetic mind to have that feeling, but the room function was precisely that: a place for poem writing parties (more specifically 31 syllables waka poems, for those in the know...) Next to the main room is smaller tea room, unfortunately so dark that details are hard to spot. The second floor can also be visited, and consists in a single large room overlooking the pond. Access to anything else than the ground floor is rare in Kyoto so the higher view of the pond is a little privilege :-) (Ruriko-in and Murin-an also offer such elevated views). Unfortunately and in a typical Japanese fashion, a large concrete bridge built across the pond in the 1940's ruins the view, but clever photographers will be able to hide it behind some leaves or bamboo blinds.
Shusui-tei is open year round, but only on Fridays and Saturdays. The visit, at 100円, is one of the cheapest in Kyoto and well worth it.
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Itsukushima-jinja 厳島神社 (30m), Munakata-jinja 宗像神社 (130m), Arisugawanomiya Residence 有栖川宮旧邸 (380m), Kyōto 京都 (410m), Shirakumo-jinja 白雲神社 (420m), Jidai Festival 時代祭 (460m), Gyōgan-ji 行願寺 (540m), Goo-jinja 護王神社 (550m), Shimogoryō-jinja 下御霊神社 (550m), Sento Imperial Palace 仙洞御所 (560m),...
External links: Website, Trip Advisor, 京都風光, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 中京, 下京, 上京, Imperial Garden, 京都御苑, 拾翠亭, Shusui-tei