Garyu Sanso is a stunning cottage in Ozu city (Ehime Prefecture) and a piece of architectural genius. It is also one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited in my entire life.
It is composed of a main cottage, a tea house, a retreat jutting out over the river, and a garden flowing between the three buildings.
Legend has it that Garyu Sanso was commissioned by the merchant Torajiro Kochi , to be his final resting abode. The main building, Garyu-in (pictured below) offers short tours where the guild points out the unique and stunning architectural designs.
However, pictures inside the main building are not allowed so y’all are just going to have to use your imagination (or see it for yourself, next time you are in Ehime!)
Construction of the garden started in 1897 and construction of the villa itself started in 1903. It was a collaboration between architect Yagi, designer Nakano Torao, and craftsman Senke Jissoku and elements from Katsura Imperial Villa, Shugakuin-rikyu Imperial Villa, and the Nashimotonomiya Kyoto Imperial Palace were incorporated into the design.
Unfortunately, even after spending a fortune on the villa, Torajiro never ended up living in Garyu Sanso.
He died in 1909 in Kobe.
This villa is set on one of the most picturesque spots in Ozu, Garyu-no-fuchi, on the banks of Hijikawa river. If you reserve in advance, you can enjoy a green tea and a traditional Japanese sweet in the building overlooking the river. From what I understand, that relaxing treat is 400yen per person.
This is the view:
We sat here for a bit over half and hour, soaking up the sights and enjoying the warm, summer breeze. Pictures can’t do this place justice.
We didn’t know about the tea ceremony option and therefor weren’t able to reserve in advance… so instead we just held hands and tried to imagine what it would be like living in this cottage.
You can poke your head inside the old tea house, a faded yellow building. It is a two tatami-mat sized house, resting deep in the garden.
I don’t know much about Japanese traditional architecture but I was impressed. My husband, who knows marginally more about architecture, was also impressed.
And there are various carved out pools of water throughout the garden, each with fresh flowers (usual blue hydrangeas). It’s the small attention to details that makes all the difference.
This little pool was carved out of the stone mountainside, right behind the yellow tea house.
If you find yourself traveling through Japan, especially in Ehime or Shikoku, I can’t recommend this place enough.
I know I said it before but pictures don’t do this place justice. This is one of those rare tourist attractions that make your soul feel full. And I can’t wait to go back.
Information for Garyu Sanso
Hour of operation: 9:00am – 5:00pm (last admission is at 4:30pm). Open year-round.
Admission: 500yen for adults, 200yen for children under 13 years, free for children under 5 years.
You can also buy a combined admission ticket for Ozu Castle and Garyu Sanso for 800yen (children, 300yen).
Address: 〒795-0012 愛媛県大洲市大洲４１１−２
45 min by car from Matsuyama IC
25 min by car from Yawatahama City
20 min walk from JR Iyo Ozu Station