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Katsura Imperial Villa

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Katsura Imperial Villa with an area of ​​about 6.6 hectares is one of the most significant cultural treasures and the most prominent masterpieces of Japanese landscape art. Western district of Kyoto, where the villa is located, is known for its historic buildings, including those relating to the period of the Heian dynasty (794-1192). For example, there is the Fujiwara no Michinaga (966-1028) of a famous aristocrat and ruler of Japan.

Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto

Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, Japan

Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto, Japan

The largest structure of the Katsura Villa is the Imperial Palace. It originally belonged to the princes of the Hachijo-no-miya genus. And now it is operated by the Imperial Household Agency and takes visitors by appointment. The current Prince Katsura does not live in the palace.  He spends most of the time in Tokyo like other members of the royal family.

Prince Hachijo Toshihito (1579-1629), the founder of the Katsura Villa, was born on February 13, 1579. He was the sixth son of Prince Sanehito, and a descendant of the Emperor of Japan, Ogimachi. In 1586 Toshihito was adopted by major Japanese politician Hideyoshi Toyotomi, but in 1589 they separated when a native son of Hideyoshi was born. As “compensation” Hideyoshi gave Toshihito a part of his land. Toshihito sold it for a profitable 15000 bushels of rice, and used the proceeds to build a new house in the imperial district of Kyoto, where other representatives of the Hachijo lived.

From an early age Toshihito was interested in literature. One of his favorite books was “The Tale of Genji”, the novel, one of the greatest works of Japanese classical literature, written in the Heian period. He was well acquainted with the poetry of the past and present, was interested in the works of the poet Po Chu-i.

When Toshihito received the land along the south bank of the Katsura river, where the action of the “Tale of Genji” took place, he set out to build a villa on the model of the one that was described in the book. However, since Toshihito did not have high savings, his first building was like a tea house.

After some time, Toshihito got acquaintant and married a new imperial family, which made him a great figure in public and political life of the country, a welcome guest at the Imperial Palace and a wealthy man. In 1624, he spent heavily on expanding the villa. He excavated a pond in the center of the garden, and formed artificial hills on its shores. The priest, who visited Katsura Villa in 1624, wrote that there was “the best view in Japan.” In 1631 the main building of the villa was officially awarded the “Palace” title.

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Category: Landscaping

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