If you feel like seeing something historic in Kyoto but not temples, shrines or castles, the Old Mitsui Family Shimogamo Villa is an option. It sits in the south of the Shimogamo Shrine.
The three-story wooden villa shows a good example of classical Japanese residence built by a wealthy family in the Meiji and Taisho eras. The main part of the building dates back to 1880 and was moved to the current location when the villa was built in 1925.
A watchtower is located on the 3rd floor It is normally closed and is occasionally opened to the public for a limited time. The stairs to the watchtower are so narrow and steep that you need to hold on to the rope. The watchtower overlooks the garden that has a gourd-shaped pond, and also commands a view of the Higashiyama mountains. The views must have provided an important essence of luxury to the life in the villa.