Murin-an (無鄰菴) is a villa located between Nanzen-ji (南禅寺) and Heian-jingu (平安神宮), along a busy road. However, the side-street little entrance and the lack of clear indications make this place a bit secretive. In other words, you won't finds hordes of tourists or foreigners here.
The villa was built in 1891 by Arimoto Yamagata, a statesman of the Meiji era. Arimoto was also a competent landscape gardener and personally supervised the design of his garden (the realization of which was the work of master gardener Jihei Ogawa). The large plot on which the villa and its garden are built is 3135 square meters, which is unbelievably large (and expensive) in today's Kyoto. But the city, who owns the property, didn't have to pay for it: it was donated in 1941, some twenty years after Arimoto's death in 1922, at 83 years old.
The small and narrow entrance leads to a small inner courtyard where the ticket office is. From there a very narrow and not very tall door leads to the garden. That door is so small that some overweight people will find impossible to go through. Before going to the garden, you can visit the ground floor of the villa on your left, and also get the classic tea-and-sweet set (抹茶・和菓子) while resting/meditating/admiring the garden. The stroll in the garden is pleasant but short. From the villa you can reach the extreme tip of the garden where the spring flows, and just before the spring cross the little stream on (slippery!) step stones. But the path stops shortly after that.
On the way back, keep left and pass in front of the tea house. You will then arrive to a western-style building, a rarity for such a traditional villa! But the owner was a statesman, open to the world, and knew about western culture too. And liked it. In fact, Murin-an is known more for this western building than for its garden, for it is on its second floor that an important conference took place right before the Russo-Japanese war, in 1903. There Arimoto discussed with the prime minister (Taro Katsura), the foreign minister (Jurato Komura) and party leader Hirobumi Ito. You can probably guess what the subject was.
A very interesting and little known thing about Murin-an is that you can easily rent its second floor and tea room, and that it's very cheap: 3000Y for half a day!
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Nearby: Konchi-in 金地院 (340m), Dainei-ken 大寧軒 (400m), Nanyō-in 南陽院 (410m), Seiryu-tei 清流亭 (420m), Awata-jinja 粟田神社 (430m), Tenju-an 天授庵 (490m), Nanzen-ji 南禅寺 (500m), Kōbun-tei 好文亭 (550m), Namikawa Cloisonné Museum 並河靖之七宝記念館 (560m), Traditional Crafts Museum 京都伝統産業ふれあい館 (620m),...
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Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 左京区, Sakyo-ku, Murin-an, 無鄰菴