Tokyo Imperial Palace
Japan's Imperial Palace is regarded as the heart and soul of
Tokyo, standing on a huge site that still bears the remains of Edo
Castle, stronghold of the Tokugawa shogunate. The present palace
was completed in 1888 and is still home to the emperor of Japan.
The palace is off-limits but its grounds and surrounds provide a
much-needed green open space for the city with Higashi Gyoen (East
Garden), site of the Edo Castle keep, open to the public. On
January 2nd and December 23rd each year visitors are able to enter
the inner grounds and see the Imperial family make public
appearances from the balcony. Guided tours of the palace are
offered, but are only in Japanese, although an English pamphlet and
audio guide are provided; these must be reserved in advance through
the Imperial Household Agency. In spring the gardens are awash with
colour when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, particularly along
the castle moat.
Transportation: Subway to Tokyo station.
Opening Time: East Garden is closed on Mondays and Fridays.
Otherwise it is open daily 9am-4pm (until 3:30pm between November
and February). Gardens closed from 28 December to 3 January and
when Imperial Court functions take place.