Tokyo >> The Katsura Imperial Villa, or Katsura-Rikyu, located in Kyoto and originally built as a holiday home for the Imperial family, will open its doors to more visitors beginning Nov. 1, the Imperial Household Agency announced.
The maximum number of visitors will be raised to 480 — more than double the current limit of 210. The number of one-hour tours conducted each day will increase fourfold from six to 24, with five being given in English.
Currently, only those aged 18 or older can enter the villa, which was constructed in the 17th century and well-known for its beautiful Japanese garden. But starting in November, the entrance age will be lowered to 12.
To cover expenses for the expanded operations, the agency will begin charging an admission fee of $9.
“We will be charging the fee to offset the costs of maintaining and managing the villa, and providing better services to the visitors,” an official at the Imperial Household Agency said. “I hope many visitors will take the time to visit and enjoy the villa.”
The Tokyo and Kyoto Imperial Palaces will continue to accept visitors free of charge.
The number of visitors to the Imperial Palace has almost doubled from some 62,000 in 2013 to around 113,000 in 2017, according to a report by the agency.
About 22 percent of visitors in 2013 were foreign tourists, but that rate soared to some 49 percent by 2017, the report showed.
In recent years, the agency has been making an effort to widen public access to properties and artifacts related to the Imperial family.
Plans are underway to build extensions to Sannomaru Shozokan, the Museum of the Imperial Collections in Tokyo, and increase the number of items on display to the public.