Tokyo Imperial Palace, Japan (with Map & Photos)

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo, otherwise known as the Imperial Castle, is located in a large park area, in the center of the Japanese capital, in a special district of Chiyoda. This architectural and landscape complex is considered one of the main attractions of the Land of the Rising Sun and an unofficial symbol of its statehood. Palace buildings cover an area of ​​741 hectares and are administered by the Office of the Imperial Household of Japan.

Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo
Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo

Basic Moments

The Imperial Palace is adjacent to government institutions - parliament, ministries, courts, embassies, as well as popular tourist attractions - the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo Station, Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo Forum. The snow-white building with a gabled roof, surrounded by fluffy pine trees, resembles an "oasis of calm" in the heart of a densely populated metropolis. The castle has two floors above ground and one underground. It is built from modern reinforced concrete structures, but using elements of traditional architecture. The interiors of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo are also made in the Japanese style and are richly decorated with precious woods. There are several halls for audiences and receptions, banquet and dining rooms, an office for the work of the emperor and other premises.

Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo
Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo

The Imperial Palace has been surrounded by wide protective ditches with water and massive walls for many centuries. They seem to fence off the dwelling of the viceroy of the Sun on Earth from the noise of the city. Nearby is the territory of a picturesque natural oasis - the Inner and Eastern Gardens. Unlike the famous castles of Europe, the Japanese Imperial Palace has no ostentatious wealth and luxury; its graceful architecture is emphatically strict and simple.

To date, here is the residence of the Emperor of Japan - Akihito. In this regard, the territory of the palace complex is carefully guarded, underground lines are not built under it, and the ground space is closed to helicopters.

Unfortunately, tourists can only admire the Imperial Palace from afar. Walking along the park alleys adjacent to it will also fail. Visitors can only enter the Oriental Garden (Koyo Higashi Gyoen), but keep in mind that this too is closed on Mondays and Fridays, as well as any other days when the Imperial Family participates in ceremonial events.

However, this rule has exceptions: twice a year, after the celebration of the New Year - on January 2 and on the emperor's birthday - on December 23, everyone has the opportunity to visit the Inner Gardens and look at the members of the imperial family. They appear before the public on a glazed balcony to greet guests.

Adjoining the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and the gardens surrounding it are the fashionable shopping district - Ginza, as well as the business district of the city - Katsumagaseki, where the offices of most Japanese government agencies and ministries are concentrated. Just north of the palace complex, the Japanese National Archives is located in the public area.

Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo
Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo

History of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

The dynasty of Japanese emperors is the oldest in the world. The first emperor began to rule the country in 660 BC. For the Japanese, their ruler is an indisputable authority, as well as a model of honesty, dignity and modesty. According to the basic law of the country, the emperor is the symbol of the country. However, today he does not have real power in the state.

Starting from 1457, on the site where the Imperial Palace is now located, there was Edo Castle, which belonged to the local feudal lord, the samurai commander Ota Dokan. Since the 17th century, it has been the residence of the rulers (shogunates) of Japan from the Tokugawa dynasty, 15 generations of which ruled the country from 1603 to 1867. Then, during the civil war, the shogunate was overthrown, restoring direct imperial rule. The capital of the country was moved from Kyoto to the city of Edo, which, in turn, was renamed Tokyo, which means "eastern capital" in Japanese. So, as a result of state reforms, the ancient castle turned into the residence of the new Japanese emperor.

In 1873, Edo Castle burned to the ground during a massive fire, and the Japanese set about building another palace. The construction of a new palace complex for Emperor Meiji was completed in 1888. It housed the Throne Hall and the Phoenix Hall intended for receptions, the Western and Eastern Reception Rooms, the Far and Harvest Halls, as well as the Thousand Meals Hall, where banquets were held.

The buildings of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo were constantly destroyed by frequent fires in those days. So, in the 19th century, the high palace tower that dominated the entire castle was burned down by a lightning strike. Even more significant destruction occurred here during the Second World War. The palace was badly damaged in the bombing raids carried out by the Allied forces in Tokyo in the last year of the war. Direct hits badly destroyed the Imperial Apartments and the Throne Room, and the wooden buildings burned down during fires. The then ruling Emperor Hirohito was forced to hide from bombing in the reinforced concrete basement of the palace library. It was from there, on August 15, 1945, that he addressed the nation by radio and announced his acceptance of the terms of surrender.

After the war, already in 1959, the Japanese government decided to rebuild the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. And if in the 19th century, wood was mainly used in buildings, then in the 20th century, the Japanese erected buildings from reinforced concrete and made them in European architectural traditions, so today you can see architecture of mixed styles on the territory of the complex.

Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo
Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo

What can be seen on the territory of the complex

On the territory of the Imperial Palace do not make independent walks. Its inspection is possible with the special permission of the Imperial Household of Japan, only as part of organized excursion groups accompanied by guides. Guided tours for visitors are provided in English and Japanese. They need to apply in advance.

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo consists of an outer and inner part, which are connected by two bridges - Nijubashi. Its name means "double bridge" in Japanese. They can be seen from a large square, which is located in front of the palace building. The stone bridge, built in 1887, is called "Meganebashi" ("glasses bridge") for its shape. Previously, it had two levels and was wooden.

In addition to the emperor's chambers, the complex includes the Imperial Laboratory and three palace shrines, which are located to the west of the new imperial palace. The palace complex also includes a museum, which contains about 10 thousand works of art, kept by many generations of emperors. Among the palace pavilions, the building of the palace of imperial shrines, intended for religious ceremonies, deserves special attention. It cherishes one of the most revered imperial regalia - the sacred necklace.

On the territory of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, there is a concert hall "Tokogakudo", which is also called the "Peach Music Hall". This building, unusual in architecture, was erected in 1963, thus deciding to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the wife of the previous emperor. The musicians of the small orchestra created in the palace often perform here. They perform both traditional Japanese music and works by European composers. Music lessons are loved by all members of the imperial family, and many of them play different instruments quite well. And among the famous Russian musicians, Mstislav Rostropovich and Yuri Bashmet played in the concert hall of the palace.

It is curious that only the Emperor of Japan and his wife permanently reside in the Imperial Castle. The family of the heir prince and the family of the second son of the imperial couple live in another part of Tokyo.

Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo
Tokyo Imperial Palace Tokyo

Oriental Gardens

The green park area surrounding the palace complex was equipped and became free for visitors in 1968. In former times, these lands were an integral part of the defense of the residence of the Japanese ruler. Here was a whole system of fortifications, created to prevent the breakthrough of enemy troops to the place where the emperor and his inner circle lived. To this day, these defensive lines have not survived. However, if you go up to the height of the hill of the first circle of defense - the so-called inner citadel "honmaru", you will see a wide platform with the remains of a rectangular stone base. At this place stood the highest tower in the country, designed to defend the castle. It was built in 1638. However, this powerful fortification did not stand for long.

The guard gates of Banse have survived to this day almost unchanged. It was a place where all visitors heading to the palace were carefully examined by the imperial guards.

The second circle of defense of the ancient Edo castle (“ninomaru”) today is occupied by trees and shrubs of a luxurious Japanese garden. It is especially nice here in autumn, when the leaves of the momiji maples turn purple and bright yellow.

How to get there

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is located in the urban area of ​​Chiyoda. It is only a 10-minute walk from Tokyo Station and Tokyo Subway Station. The territory of the gardens is open to guests every day, except for Mon, Fri and days when there are official events. The visit is free. From April to August you can visit here from 9.00 to 17.00, in September, October and March - from 9.00 to 16.30, and from November to February - from 9.00 to 16.00. Entrance to the gardens closes half an hour before closing time.

Tokyo Imperial Palace Map