The Japan Imperial Palace is one of those places I have visited multiple times in Tokyo. While the palace itself isn’t really that interesting (ehm.. mainly because you don’t get to see it), the East gardens are a definite must-visit if you get the chance.
Follow along for a photo series with all of our tips!
Japan Imperial Palace (Kōkyo)
The Tokyo Imperial Palace is located on the former site of Edo Castle. The area is a large park surrounded by a moat and massive stone walls. You can get here in 10 minutes walking from Tokyo Station.
Just outside Tokyo Station
In front of the palace lies a large concrete slab, which isn’t perhaps as glamorous as you would expect arriving here. The only good view of the palace is from here though, with the iconic bridge (Nijubashi, meaning ‘double bridge’) in front.
get there early or late in the day, so you have some space to take photos
I have said this many times in my Tokyo articles about structures in the city, but again, in WWII the building of the Imperial Palace was destroyed and it was rebuilt in the same style later. You can’t get into the inner grounds of the palace, although on January 2nd and December 23rd, you are able to enter the inner palace grounds and see members of the Imperial Family.
Of course, there are plenty of guided Tokyo imperial palace tours that take you around the palace grounds during the year, but I never did one as they are only in Japanese.
Nick smelling the flowers :)
Watchtower looking out on the moat around the palace
So that’s about all you’ll see of the palace: the white watchtower in the back. More interesting is the visit the Imperial Palace East Gardens, which I’ll take you to next
Imperial Palace East Gardens (Kōkyo Higashi Gyoen)
The gardens of the Tokyo palace are open to the public. While none of the original buildings of the Edo Castle period remain, you can still see the moat, walls and entrance gates of that time, which are impressive as well.
On the palace grounds, you will find the Ninomaru Japanese garden, which is a great place to stroll around and find your inner ZEN, like you can see me doing below (back in 2008):
My brother in front of the entrance/exit gate (2008)
Japan Imperial Palace Tokyo
Official Imperial Palace Guide – www.jnto.go.jp
How to See the Imperial Family on New Year’s Day – www.kunaicho.go.jp
The Imerial Household Agency (Guided Tours) – www.sankan.kunaicho.go.jp
Tokyo Imperial Palace East Gardens
To enter the Imperial Palace gardens, take the Otemon entrance (10-15 minute walk from Tokyo Station)
9AM to 5PM (mid April-August) or 9AM to 4PM (November-February), closed on Monday, Friday, New Year (28 Dec – 3 Jan)
Free (you will get a token that you have to return, so they know if there is anyone that’s still wandering about when they close the gates)