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Imperial Palace Tokyo

Japan flag. Tokyo Guide: Imperial Palace

Tokyo Area Guide: Imperial Palace 皇居

Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace precinct, or Kōkyo, is centrally located in Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, very near Tokyo Station. It is home to the Emperor of Japan and his family, and is where Edo Castle once stood.

Edo Castle was built in the mid-15th century, and became the citadel of the ruling Shogun in Japan's Edo period (1603-1868). When the Imperial Family was relocated from Kyoto to Tokyo with the modernizing Meiji Restoration, the castle was turned into the Emperor's residence that year and officially named Kyujo (the palace castle) from 1888 to 1948. Since then it has been called "Kokyo," or the Imperial Palace.

The Palace itself consists of the:

  • Imperial Residence where the Emperor and Empress live with their daughter, Princess Sayako
  • Fukiage Omiya Palace, the former residence of Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun
  • Imperial Palace, where various official functions take place
  • Imperial Household Agency buildings
  • Momijiyama Imperial Cocoonery
  • Imperial Concert Hall
  • East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
  • While access to the inner grounds is very restricted, the East Garden of the Imperial Palace (Kokyo Higashi Gyoen) is freely accessible from the Otemon Gate, the Hirakawamon Gate, and the Kita-Hanebashimon Gate. Check out the elderly amateur artists painting the scenery.

    Access further inside is limited to only two days of the year. On January 2 (New Year's Greeting) and December 23 (the Emperor's birthday), visitors are allowed to enter the inner palace grounds and witness the members of the Royal Family, who are arrayed and waving behind a bullet-proof window on a balcony.

    There are guided tours in Japanese throughout the year. As with any Imperial site, though, tours must be reserved in advance at the Imperial Household Agency (Kunaicho). You may book up to a day before your intended visit.

    Edo Castle, Tokyo.Edo Castle moat, Tokyo.

    Imperial Palace, Marunouchi district of Tokyo.

    Edo Castle, Tokyo.Edo Castle, Tokyo.

    Imperial Palace, Tokyo.

    Kōkyo Gaien National Park and Nijubashi

    The most famous view of the Imperial Palace is from Kōkyo Gaien National Park on the Marunouchi (Tokyo Station) side, east of the Imperial Palace.

    Kōkyo Gaien National Park has a road running through it: Uchibori-dōri, and if you approach the Palace walls from Nijūbashimae intersection, you will see a double-arched stone bridge nicknamed Glasses Bridge (Meganebashi) for its spectacle-like appearance, leading to the Main Gate of the Imperial Palace (Kōkyo Seimon - used on rare ceremonial occasions) and, behind it, a metal bridge called Nijūbashi (Two-Level Bridge) which, according to one account, is named from the double-storied wooden bridge it replaced.

    Wadakura Fountain Park

    The northern part of Kōkyo Gaien National Park contains Wadakura Fountain Park, dating from 1961 to celebrate the wedding of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan, with additions in 1995 for the wedding of Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako. Wadakura Fountain Park is about 800m north of the Nijubashi-mae Intersection.

    Imperial Palace moat in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo.

    Imperial Palace moat in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo.

    Edo Castle moat.Edo Castle moat, Marunouchi, Tokyo.

    Imperial Palace Moat, Marunouchi district, Tokyo, Japan; The Babasaki Moat of the Imperial Palace, Marunouchi, Tokyo

    For a full listing of Tokyo Museums & Art Galleries click here

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