Seifuso Villa

Exquisite modern Japanese architecture and garden inspired by contemplation of nature. Photos reflecting the charms of Seifuso Villa.

Modern Japanese architecture at its finest


Seifuso Villa was the private residence in Kyoto of Kinmochi Saionji, who served twice as prime minister of Japan toward the end of the Meiji era and subsequently as a genro, an elder statesman advising the emperor. Kinmochi was the son of Kin’ito Tokudaiji—a member of the kugyo, the group of powerful men attached to the imperial court—and Seifuso Villa occupies the site where a villa belonging to the Tokudaiji family once stood. Kinmochi spent his first years there before the Saionji family adopted him. His younger brother, Tomoito, was adopted by the Sumitomo family and became the 15th Kichizaemon Sumitomo, the head of the Sumitomo family. This sibling relationship is the background to the Sumitomo family’s purchase of the site at Seifuso where Tomoito built a residence for his brother Kinmochi. The main residence was completed in 1912 (1st year of the Taisho era) and the entire project was finished by 1915. Comprising refined buildings of great distinction, constructed using only the very best timber and employing exquisite architectural techniques, situated in a garden inspired by contemplation of nature, Seifuso Villa is one of the finest examples of modern Japanese architecture. Kinmochi passed away in 1940 and the Sumitomo family donated Seifuso Villa to Kyoto Imperial University in 1944 (19th year of the Showa era). Nowadays, as a guesthouse of Kyoto University, Seifuso Villa continues to enchant discerning visitors.

House and garden conceived as a single seamless entity

In modern sukiya-zukuri architecture, the building is first and foremost a vantage point from which to appreciate the garden. Seifuso Villa is a superb example of this architectural genre. The various rooms afford expansive views onto the garden so that one can enjoy its beauty from multiple perspectives. The villa was the work of Jinbee Yagi, Jr., a master carpenter celebrated for his expertise as a practitioner of sukiya-zukuri. The villa’s abundant use of high-quality natural timber and the commitment to an aesthetic of simplicity shorn of all contrivance are the hallmarks of Yagi the master. Seifuso Villa was registered as an important cultural property of Japan in 2012 (24th year of the Heisei era).


Exquisite garden appealing to all five senses

The garden is the work of Jihei (Ueji) Ogawa VII, a leading Japanese garden designer of the modern era who created several outstanding gardens that continue to delight the eye. He was 54 and in his prime when he created the garden of Seifuso Villa, which is considered to be his masterpiece. In terms of style, it is a chisen-kaiyushiki (pond stroll garden). Structured around the central feature of the pond, it is best appreciated by strolling along the inviting path through the undulating grass-covered grounds. Ueji’s pursuit of a garden appealing to all five senses is evident in the combination of the gently sloping lawn extending from the front of the villa, the winding path, the reflections in the pond, and the vista of Mt. Daimonji as the backdrop to the tsukiyama (artificial hill). In 1951 (26th year of the Showa era), the garden was designated by the national government as a special place of scenic beauty.


Architectural data

Completed in 1912 (Completion of all the buildings by 1914)
Jinbee Yagi, Jr.
Garden design
Jihei (Ueji) Ogawa VII
Site area
(including the area provided for Kyoto University Women’s Dormitory in 1960)
Total floor area
2-1, Tanaka-sekiden-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City
Designation as an important cultural property
The garden was designated as a special place of scenic beauty in 1951.
The buildings were designated as national important cultural properties in 2012.
Please note that Seifuso Villa is not open to the public.