Divided into three beautiful gardens, a portion of the Japanese Emperor’s home is open to the public throughout the year.

Located in the center of Tokyo, the Imperial Palace is the residence of the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Surrounded by a moat and a vast garden with flowers and trees, the Imperial Palace offers a refuge from the metropolitan lifestyle of the city for both the Imperial family and visitors alike. The facilities themselves are built atop the ruins of the Edo Castle, the residence of the Emperor until it was destroyed by fire in 1869. A new palace was constructed in 1888, but suffered heavy damage during Allied bombing in World War II. The Imperial Palace as it now stands was finished in the 1960s. Three areas of the palace, two gardens and a park, are open to the public. The interior of the Imperial Palace itself is off limits to visitors except on the Emperor’s birthday, December 28, and the Japanese New Year, January 3.

Outer Garden of the Imperial Palace

The Outer Garden, called Kokyo Gaien, is situated outside the gates of the Imperial Palace near Kasumigaseki, the government district of Tokyo. It offers a relaxing spot amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Near Tokyo Station, the Niju-bashi Bridge stretches over a moat running through plum trees and open fields. Highlighting the calming aspects of the Outer Garden, the location also features a koi pond surrounded by bushes, offering a popular photo spot for visitors. The Outer Garden is free to the public and open year round.

East Garden of the Former Edo Castle

The only portion of the inner Imperial Palace opened to the general public without a reservation is the East Gardens, also known as Kokyo Higashi Gyoen. The area is dotted with remnants of the Edo Castle that once stood in its place. Visitors can see where the moats, guardhouses and walls were positioned during the era of the samurai. Some of the highlights of the East Garden include seasonal flowers, famous for azaleas and hydrangeas presentations. Also located in this area is the Museum of the Imperial Collection (Sannomaru-Shozo-kan), a building which houses a vast array of kimonos, paintings and the personal art collection of Emperor Hirohito. The East Garden is located roughly 10 to 15 minutes by foot from Tokyo Station and can be visited for free all year long, except for Mondays, Fridays, December 28 and January 3.

Kita-no-maru-koen Park

On the north side of the Imperial Palace is the Kita-no-maru-koen Park. It features a moat called the Chidori-ga-fuchi, which runs along a series of cherry trees that blossom in the springtime. Kita-no-maru-koen Park also has a number of facilities that offer visitors entertainment and culture in the Japanese tradition. One of the most popular of these sites includes The National Theater, a venue that presents Kabuki and Noh plays as well as short comedies known as Kyogen. A concert hall called the Nippon Budo-kon, the Science Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art round out the attractions for guests. While the park itself is free, each facility has distinctive hours of operation that vary year round.

Resources

“Imperial Palace” Japan Guide

“Tokyo Imperial Palace” Japanese Lifestyle

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