Sento Imperial Palace (仙洞御所, Sentō Gosho) is a secondary palace complex across from the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kyoto Imperial Park. It was built in 1630 as the retirement palace of Emperor Gomizuno, and became the palace for subsequent retired emperors.
The original palace buildings burned down in 1854 and were not rebuilt. Instead, Omiya Palace was constructed on the Sento grounds in 1867 and now serves as the lodging place for the current prince and princess during their visits to Kyoto.
The palace garden's South Pond
Visiting Sento Imperial Palace requires booking a free tour through the Imperial Household Agency, which manages all the Imperial properties. The tour leads through the Sento garden which is comprised of the North Pond and South Pond areas. It is a beautiful example of a strolling garden.
Tours of Sento Palace last about one hour and are conducted in Japanese only. None of the palace buildings are entered, however, some of the structures, such as the Seikatei teahouse, are left open so that visitors can see inside and get an impression of imperial design and style.
A tour group is led through the palace garden
Get There and Around
Sento Imperial Palace is located within the Kyoto Imperial Park. It can be reached from Kyoto Station in about 10 minutes by the Karasuma Subway Line. Get off at Marutamachi or Imadegawa Station. Both stations are about a 15 minute walk from the entrance gate of Sento Palace, however, Imadegawa Station is closer to the office of the Imperial Household Agency.
Free tours of Sento Imperial Palace are held twice daily at 11:00 and 13:30 in Japanese only. No tours are held on Sundays and national holidays. Most Saturdays are also unavailable. Check with the agency for an up to date schedule.
To book a tour, you need to apply in advance with your passport at the Imperial Household Agency's office in Kyoto Imperial Park. Reservations are often possible on the same day as the intended visit. The agency office is open Monday to Friday from 8:45 to 12:00 and from 13:00 to 17:00.
Additionally, a small number of tour spots are available for reservation over the agency's website (see links below), however, these often get booked out. Online reservations must be completed several days before the intended visit.