Imperial Palace

Imperial Palace

Another excellent place for walking and taking in the sights of Tokyo is the Imperial Palace, the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is located in a large park-like area in Chiyoda Ward in central Tokyo, very close to Tokyo Station. The palace contains several buildings including Chowaden reception hall, the private residence of the imperial family, an archive, museum and the Imperial Household Agency offices. It was built on the site of Edo castle. For anyone with an interest in Tokyo or Japanese history AND wants to get some great photographs, this is one of the best places to go!.

What`s the Imperial Palace like?

It is very picturesque, a great place for photos. Moats, cherry blossom trees, Japanese gardens and walls in the foreground, city landscape in the background and it doesn`t get much better than that – the contrast of new and old. Look into the palace and you see the some of the remaining towers and keeps, massive walls and moats.  Turn around and look outside, you`ll see the concrete city, tall skyscrapers, cranes and construction.  Quite an amazing sight during fine weather.

And it is just a nice place to enjoy a to walk, especially on the weekends when all the joggers are out.  But, if you do decide to walk around it in its entirety, as the palace is built on a hill so you`ll be walking up a gentle slope for about half the way, and then down the other half.  It`s a very easy walk, nothing difficult about it at all.

And it is so easy to get to, a little over five minutes from Tokyo Station`s Marunouchi gate.

YouTube video


Best place for photos

If I had to pick just one spot at the palace it would be without doubt “Main Gate”.  It has two Imperial guards on duty, Meganebashi ((Eye) Glasses bridge), Niju bridge and Fushimi keep in the background.

What`s good about the Imperial Palace?

1.  It`s a great place for pictures.  There are bridges, moats, cherry blossoms, Imperial guards and the East Gardens (to be covered in an upcoming article).

2.  If you are into jogging, the palace is a great place for it.  It`s five kilometers and is extremely popular.  But if you do decide to run it, make sure you follow everyone else and go counterclockwise.  There are toilets and drinking fountains around the palace if you need them while on a run.

3.  It is 100% free!

4.  The East Gardens are right next door to the palace which is another great place to see.

And what`s not so good?

1.  Unfortunately you can`t enter the palace grounds, to do that you can go on December 23 (Emperor`s birthday), January 2 (when he gives New Year greetings) or take the Imperial Palace tour (which you can see here).

2.  The majority of the buildings within the palace are very low-set, which means you won`t be able to see a whole lot inside.

3.  For the majority of people all of the interesting stuff is on the Marunouchi side, which is the Tokyo station side.  On the opposite side of the palace around the Hanzo gate it`s pretty empty, not a great lot to see.

4.  Maybe just my experience, but it seems to me that in summer the moats seem to be filled with algae which doesn`t look that great.

5.  Places to eat and drink are very difficult to find near the palace.  So if you are doing the complete circuit make sure you get something before you start.

How long does it take to walk around the Imperial Palace
At a leisurely pace it will take slightly more than an hour to walk around the perimeter of just the palace provided you didn`t stop to take pictures.  So if you want to do the whole walk and take pictures make sure you give yourself enough time.  If you are limited for time, the Marunouchi side would be perfect. Most of the main gates are there, as are the main gates. Plus you can see a few buildings located within the palace.

How to get to the Imperial Palace

Very easy to get to. The easiest way would be to leave from Tokyo station`s Marunouchi central gate, cross the road and keep walking straight out. The palace is about a five minute walk from the station.  We have a Google map here to help you:

View Imperial Palace, Tokyo in a larger map
Admission costs


What else is there?

1.  At the palace itself, you can enter the grounds to see the Emperor twice a year, December 23 and January 2.  December is the Emperor`s birthday and January 2 is to listen to the Emperor`s New Year`s greetings.

2.  The East gardens, which are open to the public.  The are very beautiful and offer some great views of the city from within.  They are open every day except Monday and Friday.

3.  If you want to take a tour of the palace grounds you can do a tour, which is very worthwhile.  Click here to see the article.

4.  The Marunouchi business district is very close (just a few minutes away).  And just within walking distance is Ginza (roughly 30 minutes).


Best times to go?

Spring is great if you want to see the many cherry blossom trees around the palace – truly picturesque especially near Chidorigafuchi park (near the Hanzo Gate). Autumn is good as well, when you can see the Autumn leaves. Also, you can actually enter the palace on December 23 (the Emperor`s birthday) and January 2 (New Year`s greetings from the Emperor).

Photo gallery

A brief history of the Imperial Palace

Originally built in 1457 by Ota Dokan, it eventually became home to Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1590 and the seat of Tokugawa power. With the Tokugawa administration in Edo castle, the township of Edo rose to be the greatest city in the county and eventually became modern day Tokyo.  With the return of Imperial power it became the Emperor`s residence in 1868.

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