The Historic Tokyo Imperial Palace

Japan is a country that values the past as much as it values the present and the future. With this being said, it is no surprise that Japan has a lot of historical landmarks scattered throughout its land. These landmarks differ from shrines to royal gardens and even to preserved castles. Despite its abundance in historical sites, there seems to be no historical landmark known or recognized more than the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The Historical Facts, Interior Details, Map, and Operating Hours of the Tokyo Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is the home of the emperor of Japan. It is found in the Chiyoda Ward of Tokyo. The history of this palace dates back to the time when the capitulation of the shogunate and the age of the Meiji Restoration happened. In that period of time, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu was forced to leave the Edo Castle and that is when the Emperor moved in for a short period of time. This was also the point in time where the castle went from being called the Edo Castle to the Tokei (Tokyo) Castle.

The emperor left for Kyoto for a little while and upon his return, he decided to rename the castle once again to its present name now, the Imperial Castle. To clarify, the castle is not the same as the palace. In that point in time, the Imperial Palace wasn’t even constructed yet. It wasn’t until the fire which burned down the Nishinomaru Palace that the Imperial Palace became an actual project for the Imperial family.

The Nishinomaru Palace, which used to be the household or residence of the shogun, burned down in the year of 1873. The area did not go to waste though as this was the perfect site to build the new Imperial Palace Castle. This new Imperial Palace Castle was built and finished in the year of 1888.

The palace has changed a lot since that time. Presently, the Imperial Palace has exceeded the area once occupied by the former Edo Castle. Advancements in technology and design influenced the modern palace called Kyuden to be made with various imperial court function rooms and reception areas. This growth in the area also made it possible to accommodate the current emperor and empress’ residence in the Fukiage Gardens. 

There have also been major changes to the functions of the various grounds in the vicinity of the palace. The west citadel, where the Nisihnomaru Palace used to be, is now occupied by not only the Imperial Palace but also the Imperial Household Agency. This agency is an agency of the Japanese government whose task is to manage any state matters that involve the Imperial Family. Alongside this responsibility are the added duties of keeping the Privy Seal and the State Seal of Japan.

Going back to the present configuration of the ground in the palace, the palace of today is now a renovated version of itself. What used to be isolated portions of structures now stand as one interconnected complex. This design was made possible through the work of the Takenaka Corporation who finished construction on this complex in 1968.

The Kyuden is made up of six major wings namely the Seiden State Function Hall, Homeiden State Banquet Hall, Chowaden Reception Hall, Rensui Dining Room, Chigusa Chidori Drawing Room, and the Emperor’s Work Office. Within these halls are corridors that serve different purposes. An example of these halls would be the Matsu no Ma or the Pine Chamber. It is in this chamber that the emperor entertains the prime minister. This is also where the appointing of major government positions like the ambassadors, Ministers of State, and Chief Justice is done so there are obviously a lot of national events that still happen within these walls.

The grounds of the East Garden also wasn’t always how it is now. In the earlier years, this area used to be where the Honmaru and Ninomaru areas were. These areas were where structures like the donjon or keep stood before it got burned down by the Meiriki fire of 1657. Nowadays, the East Garden is where the majority of the government buildings are found.

Aside from holding the administrative structure, the East Garden is also the part of the palace where you can find the establishments like the Imperial Tokagakudo Music Hall, Music Department of the Board of Ceremonies of the Imperial Household, Museum of the Imperial Collections, and much more. There were also some structures that had to be removed, like the stables and housing, to make the most recent changes possible.

The work on this area began in the year of 1961 and it started with the pond you will find in the old Ninomaru area. Along with the installation of a pond, repairs of the multiple damaged structures were also done and in the year of 1963, the East Garden was declared a “Special Historic Relic” by the government of Japan.

In the northwestern grounds of the palace, you will find the Ninomaru Garden. This garden is like no other in Japan because it is the only garden that holds all symbolic trees that represent every prefecture in Japan. All the trees were donated by each prefecture and the garden currently has 260 trees made up of 30 different species of trees.

The northern grounds of the palace where the northern fortification of the Edo Castle was is now where you can find the Kitanomaru Park. This park holds the Nippon Budokan which is a venue where indoor sports and performances are held. This park is also where you can locate the Science Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art. This park is open to all which is a treat if you like long walks in gorgeous parks.

The entrance to this park also holds some interesting facts. That particular entrance is called the Tayasu-mon and it is a very special part of this establishment because it is the oldest surviving structure of the original Edo Castle. That makes this structure nearly 500 years old. It might be seen as a small feat but if you appreciate history, then you will surely understand the rareness seeing and touching something that has lasted as long as the Tayasu-mon has.

The Imperial Palace’s premises can be accessed via walking if you are coming from the surrounding stations like the Otemachi subway station and Tokyo train station. The estimated travel time, if you are originating from either of these stations, is a 10 to 15-minute walk. Considering the view that you have as you take that stroll from the station to the palace, some travelers might even find that walk to be a relaxing one.

Visiting the Imperial East Garden is free and although it is open to the public, it isn’t open all night long. Generally, it is open for viewing from 9 AM to 4:30 PM. The closing time changes from 4:30 to 4:00 and 4:30 to 5:00 depending on the time of the year. From April to August, closing time is extended to 5 PM. In the months of November to February, visiting hours are cut short because the closing time is set to be 4 PM. They only let visitors in until the last 30 minutes before closing time so plan accordingly. The gardens are open all days of the week except for Mondays and Fridays.

The Non-existent Price for a Tour around the Inner Grounds of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo and the Reservation that Cost Nothing

They allow people to view the park and garden outside the palace for free but the inner grounds of the palace are more or less off limits to the public unless you join the regular tours around the palace grounds or special occasions. These “special occasions” are easy to remember because the list is made up of only two dates. The first date is on January 2nd and the second date is on the emperor’s birthday which is on December 23rd. They allow entry into the palace grounds on this day because the Imperial Family show themselves atop a balcony to greet the public. That is about as far as you will ever go because whether it be a special occasion or a guided tour, visitors are not allowed to enter any of the buildings in the palace.

The guided tours happen every day except for Sundays and Mondays. Each tour takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes and there are two tours per day. The first tour starts in Japanese daily at 10 AM and the second starts in the same place at 1:30 PM. Although you won’t be entering any building on the palace grounds, the views you will get to see on your tour will be well worth your while.

Another thing that will make it worth your while is the fact that these tours are absolutely free. Tourists used to have a harder time getting in before because all tours were to be booked in advance. They did not entertain same-day admissions at all. This issue has changed in the recent years though. They have incorporated the same-day registration to their operations. By doing so, they truly made it easier for both local and foreign traveler to bask in the beauty of the inner grounds.

The Perfect Place to Rest after Your Day in the Imperial Palace: The Imperial Hotel, Tokyo

After journeying and sightseeing in Tokyo, specifically in the Imperial Palace gardens and grounds, you will definitely be looking forward to removing your shoes and stretching out with a cold drink in hand. There are many hotels in Chiyoda that can give this to you and you can be sure that they provide a great quality service. There is no hotel closer to the Imperial Palace than the Imperial Hotel though. Not only is this hotel the nearest to the palace but it is also ranked 5th out of the 74 hotels in Chiyoda so expect the best of the best service if you decide to stay here because that is exactly what you will get.

This hotel has been rebuilt three times to keep up with the changing designs of the world throughout the years. Each renovation lasted longer than the previous. The first model, designed by Yuzuru Watanabe, stood from 1906 to 1922. The second model, designed by Frank Llyod Wright, stood from 1922 to 1969. The third model stood from 1970 until this present day.

 A night in this hotel would cost at least $357 and that it already a great deal considering the advantage you have because of the location of the hotel. If you take into account the amenities, like the spa and the pool that will be available for you to use at any time during your stay, paying that amount would already seem as if the hotel were doing you a favor instead of the other way around.

The reviews on this hotel from previous customers are all positive things too. They commended this particular hotel for giving them “the warmest welcome anyone could ask for” and many more appraisals from various respondents. In other words, it is quite apparent that the Imperial Hotel is very consistent and particular with their high level and all-around service. The rooms are comfy and very clean too. You will surely feel like you are in a resort if you choose to spend your down time in this hotel.

The Imperial Palace is surely something to see when in Tokyo. All you really need is time because the entrance and tour provider in this attraction is free. The attractions here cater to many possible interests of different adventurers. The lovers of history, architecture, nature, symbolisms and many others will sure find something they will like or love in this place. It is also very near great hotels like the Imperial Hotel so you practically have everything you can ask for in a great vacation.