Tokyo Guide: Imperial Palace
Tokyo Area Guide: Imperial Palace 皇居
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:
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.
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.
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