Drawing the best art of Japanese garden by breathtaking beauty of landscape arranged in excellent architecture, the vast shadow of Shugakuin Imperial Villa covers the hillside of Hiei Mountain and intents to flood the flat plain of Kyoto city. The lavish appearance of the villa makes it the most beautiful among four Imperial Palaces along with Kyoto Sento and Katsura Imperial Palaces. The villa was built in 1655 by the retired Emperor Go-Mizunou and even with a large scale, it took just 4 years to be completed in 1659. However, the construction was entirely fulfilled in 1680 by his daughter.
Go-Mizunou had to overcome many obstacles during his time in power. He bore the crown even when he was fifteen then met strong protest from the Shogun in general. In 1627 when the Jodo sect which Go-Mizunou had supported a lot and even being a member was eliminated, the Emperor seemed to be on edge of the end. Amazingly, he stayed soundly over these crises, perhaps thanks to his intelligence and cleverness. He was a man of art, he loved calligraphy and tea ceremony. That can explain why he can treat the Shogun and other powermen so kindly and harmoniously to remain his position till the end before abdicating in November 1629.
The story was that about ten years later, the Shogun decided to built an Imperial villa for him, putting a huge attention on this construction. Go- Mizunou spent about nearly 15 years finding a suitable spot for his villa around the Kinugasa Mountain and th suburb area of Kyoto. He found this location when he had his breakfast at the Enshoji nunnery on March 13, 1655 then starting the construction immediately. Under the hands of ones among the best architects and artisans, a large dam was created to take water into a pond then buildings began to rise around tis pond.
Shugakuin Imperial Villa covers a large area of about 135 hectares by three gardens called the Upper garden, Middle garden and Lower garden with a villa and a teahouse in each garden. The Lower villa is just a stop to rest of the Emperor before going up to the Upper villa. It is an elegant building with Zaichu Hara’s paintings on sliding doors housing a wooden tablet with calligraphy by the Emperor Gomizuno-o himself, surrounded by lavish garden dotted by a little pond and stone lanterns. Outside, vast rice fields along with mountains and hills run to the horizon. The Middle villa is combined by two buildings namely Rakushi-ken and Kyaku-den, built for the Princess Genyo in 17th century with decorative shelves and cedar wood sliding doors painted with pictures of carp and Gion festival. The Upper villa sits on the hilltop with most breathtaking views of the area around including waterfalls, ponds and islands.