The Tokyo Imperial Palace is one of the must-visit places in Tokyo, as well as in all of Japan. The beautiful gardens, stunning architecture, and the feeling of ancient legacy, these are just a few reasons why many local and overseas travelers find themselves flocking here. Let’s have a closer look at Tokyo Imperial Palace and learn what we can before visiting this majestic place.
The Imperial Palace of Tokyo was built on the sites of former Edo castle, which dates back to the fifteenth century and was used as the residence of the ruling Tokugawa shogun during the end of the Kamakura Shogunate. Imperial Palace history started when the original Edo castle was destroyed in fire in 1873. During the Meiji Restoration the inhabitants and shogun Tokugawa Yashinobu were required to leave the Edo castle. Later the Japanese Emperor left Kyoto Imperial Palace and came to the new Edo castle. At that very time this castle was renamed into Tokei (the alternative name of old Tokyo) Castle or Tokyo Imperial Palace.
Imperial Palace is a residence of the Emperor of Japan. Located in Chiyoda ward of Tokyo, it contains several buildings and the main palace. A few buildings are dedicated to other members of Imperial family, museums, archives and administrative offices. Except for Imperial Household Agency, this palace is generally closed for visitors. Each New Year and Emperors birthday the visitors are allowed in through the Nakamon gates, where they can gather in Kyuden Totei Plaza to see the Emperor and hear his personal greetings.
The Emperor has always been the important figure in Japanese history and culture. He is still seen as the “father” of the nation and is rarely seen except for at major ceremonies. Therefore if you get a chance, seeing him on either New Year’s or his birthday is a great opportunity!
Except for the palace itself, you can see the remains of old bridges and gardens from Edo period. There is plenty to see, and perhaps, booking a tour will make your trip all the better.
Imperial Palace tours can only be attended with an advance reservation through Imperial Household Agency, and only directly. Security is quite strict and all the reservations must be done through the official Imperial Household Agency website or by the telephone.
The tours are free and are guided and conducted in Japanese. English language pamphlets are available and you can get some English audio tapes upon request. The East Gardens are opened to the public throughout the year and are free to enter. The public is also allowed to enter into the inner sanctum. A visit to the grounds and gardens will reveal the unique Imperial palace history. Some of the walls are made of rocks, many have special calligraphy marks of the donor family that helped to finance the construction.
Visiting the East Gardens is an especially beautiful experience. Around the garden, there are also ancient wooden guardhouses that resemble shrines and temples. You can also visit Ninomaru garden, one of the most beautiful examples of a traditional Japanese garden, which is especially stunning during cherry blossom season.
If ever in Tokyo, make sure to pay this place a visit. Even if you cannot book a tour, you can always equip yourself with a solid guidebook or a pamphlet on Tokyo Imperial Palace and discover its history by yourself. No matter time of the year, the palace always looks stunning, so make sure you charge your cameras before coming here.