London has Kensington Palace Gardens, Hong Kong has Pollock’s Path and Monaco has Avenue Princesse Grace. Japan’s most expensive and most exclusive neighbourhood is not in Tokyo, but in the grounds of a temple in the historic former capital of Kyoto.
Nanzen-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple that was first established in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama on the site of one of his former palaces. During the anti-Buddhist movement at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, Nanzen-ji’s grounds and sub temples were seized by the government, subdivided and sold off to private interests. Between the Meiji period and early Showa period, Japanese nobility began to build luxurious holiday homes with expansive and carefully designed Japanese gardens.
Competition amongst the elite was strong, with each one trying to build a bigger and grander villa than the other. Today, 15 of the original villas remain. Many of these villas are still owned by descendants of the original owners, or are held by some of Japan’s top companies and are not open to the public. These estates are worth as much as 100 million USD, but are so tightly held that, no matter how much money you may have, the area cannot be bought into at any price.