Located to the west of Tokyo Station and occupying some of the most expensive real estate in the world is the Imperial Palace—official residence of the Imperial Family since 1868. Built on the grounds of the former Edo Castle, Tokyo Imperial Palace is surrounded by a moat and comprises of the Inner Grounds, Kitanomaru Park, Imperial Palace East Gardens, and Imperial Palace Outer Gardens.
It used to be the case that visitors often come away from Tokyo Imperial Palace disappointed for the simple reason that they couldn’t enter the Inner Grounds. The closest they got to the Imperial Family is walking up the gravel path to the stone bridge (seimon-ishibashi) and taking a photograph of the imposing gates from the other side. The Inner Grounds only open to the public on 2 January for the New Year’s Greetings from the Imperial Family, and the 23 December, the emperor’s birthday. Any other time during the year and you needed to make an application through the online form well in advance. However, the system changed mid 2016 to allow same-day registration for the tour. You can read more about the tour and see photographs inside the palace grounds here.
Kitanomaru Park located on the north side contains the Science Museum, National Museum of Modern Art, and the Nippon Budokan—Tokyo’s Royal Albert Hall.
Imperial Palace East Gardens
Gardens to the northeast corner of the palace grounds and one of the most beautiful in Tokyo. See here for more details.
Day Tour of the Imperial Palace
The Imperial Household Agency offers day tours of the Imperial Palace which is well recommend because the general public are not permitted to enter the inner grounds otherwise. See here for details.
Wadakura Fountain Park
A small park to the east of the Imperial Palace. The Wadakura Fountain Park was opened in 1961 to commemorate the wedding of the Emperor and Empress, and refurbished in 1995 to celebrate the wedding of the Crown Prince and Princess. The design is very modern—concrete with fountains, narrow water channels, and waterfalls. There is also a cafe and restaurant. Best to visit in the evening when the park and fountains are illuminated.
Directions. 1 minute from Exit D2 of Otemachi Station. Google Maps
Palace Cycling Course
- Directions. Reception is next to the police box near Exit 2 of Nijubashi-mae Station
- Hours. 10:00-15:00 (Sundays only). Closed in the event of rain
- Fee. You can rent bikes for free but they can only be used on the course
Museums / Art Galleries
Japan’s first national art museum opened in 1952 and now contains a variety of exhibits that show the evolution of Japanese art over the course of the 20th century. There are three buildings: the Art Museum, Craft Gallery, and National…