When it comes to traditional Japanese landscaping and architecture, the Katsura Imperial Villa (aka Katsura Rikyu) is often referred to as a paramount example of Japanese sophistication and refinement. Located in Kyoto, a city famous for its temples, shrines, and gardens, the unquestionable majesty of the Katsura Imperial Villa manages to wow not only the proud people of Japan but architects and aficionados from across the globe.

One might assume that beauty of this sort can only be appreciated in person, but in 2010 Yasuhiro Ishimoto, a well-recognized photographer and “Man of Cultural Distinction” as designated by the Japanese government, released a photo book which somehow captures both the beauty and the spirit of the space. You’ve got to see to believe the masterpiece that this man captured on film.

The Katsura Imperial Villa was built and expanded upon throughout the 17th century by members of the Hachijo-nomiya household, of the noble Katsuranomiya bloodline. It was initially built as a holiday house, but refined over the years to become the perfect moon viewing stage.

Traditional Japanese gardens took a great deal of care and consideration to create, much more than is obvious at a glance. Designers would take into account not only the look of the scene, but the experience that one has when walking through it. The type and texture of the garden paths, the sounds made by one’s footsteps, and the rustling of the relative stillness of the surrounding space were all carefully measured and controlled by the gardens’ creators, although the final product was meant to seem entirely spontaneous, as though manufactured by Mother Nature.

In a show of amazing skill, photographer, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, somehow managed to capture that dichotomy between natural elegance and manufactured perfection within the Katsura Imperial Villa. He leads his audience through the multifaceted layers that characterize traditional Japanese beauty, by giving us a unique view of this elegant building and its exquisite interplay with the surrounding gardens. His monochromatic pictures, shot in sharp contrast, bring emphasis to the many types of textures, which set the tone for our photo-enabled stroll around the space. The sharp, black lines remove some sense of depth, but allow viewers to move all the way to the far end of the picture plane without losing clarity. And Ishimoto’s clever cropping creates balance in the building’s geometric shapes, so the pictures are easy to relax into, without causing strain on the eyes.

Take a look at some of Ishimoto’s photographs and see for yourself the carefully crafted spirit of traditional Japanese beauty at the Katsura Imperial Villa.

















Sadly, Yasuhiro Ishimoto passed away early last year at the age of 90. We won’t be graced by any new photographs from his steady lens, but we can continue to appreciate the works he left behind for many generations to come. His photo books now sell for hundreds of dollars online and his pictures can be found in major exhibitions around the world. It wouldn’t at all surprise me if this man’s works become as timeless as the content that they capture.

Source: DDN Japan (Japanese)