Tokyo Imperial Palace (皇居), which is also knowns as just Imperial Palace, is the current residence of the imperial family. It is one of the most popular tourist sites in Tokyo for its beautiful gardens in it and moats around them. The site of Tokyo Imperial Palace includes rich nature though it is surrounded by high-rise buildings in the sophisticated business district Marunouchi. Running and cycling around Tokyo Imperial Palace is popular activities among Japanese people and international travelers. Tokyo Imperial Palace is also famous for its accessibility since since it is located near Tokyo Station.
History of Imperial Palace
In 1457, Edo Castle was founded in the site where Tokyo Imperial Palace is now located. The castle had been controlled by Ieyasu Tokugawa who established the Shogunate in the Edo Period. Here are the answers to these questions “Where did the Imperial family live in the Edo Period” and “Who lives in Tokyo Imperial Palace”.
As to the former question, Japanese imperial family lived in Kyoto from 794 (Heian Period) to 1869 (Meiji Period), and the Kyoto Imperial Palace is open to public and is visited by many tourists today. And then, the imperial family including the current Emperor Naruhito and the Empress Masako lives in Tokyo Imperial Palace now. In 2019, the former Emperor Akihito was abdicated and the present Emperor Naruhito has been enthroned as the 126th emperor of Japan since then.
Things to See at Tokyo Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace itself, home to Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, is closed to public basically. A tour around the palace are held twice a day. You can see historic buildings such as the Council building, Fujumi Yagura (Mt.Fuji-view Keep) and the palace itself. The number of visitors for the tours is limited but it’s able to reserve via its website in advance.
Apart from the tour around the palace, gardens around the site are very popular for sightseeing. One of the gardens, the Outer Garden (皇居外苑) is a border between the rich-nature site and the skyscrapers in Marunouchi. Don’t miss a stone bridge to a main gate which is the most famous spot in the site. The view of Fujimi Yagura over the bridge is beautiful.
The East Garden (皇居東御苑) of the palace is also free to admit. There is the chance to view the remains of Edo Castle stone wall. There are three gates to enter but the east gate Otemon Gate is the nearest one to Tokyo Station. It’s the principal entrance to Edo castle. Beyond the gate, you can stop to enjoy the Museum of Imperial Collections. It offers over 9,500 artworks possessed by the imperial family.
A moat and stone walls surrounding Tokyo Imperial Palace form the beautiful view with history and greenery. That is why many people choose this place for running and cycling. You can see beautiful cherry blossoms along the most in spring. The gingko trees standing along the streets between Tokyo Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station change their leaves into gold in autumn.
How to Get to Tokyo Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace is located within about 10–15 mins walking distance from the transportation hub Tokyo Station. Get out of Tokyo Station Marunouchi Central Exit.
The business hours of Tokyo Imperial Palace depends on the season, so it is highly recommended to visit it in the morning or early afternoon for sure.
It is basically open during 9:00–17:00 and until 18:00 around the summer season, however, please be noted that the park closes at 16:00 or 16:30 in winter (between October and February).
If you take a trip to Tokyo, you would probably use Tokyo Station once at least, so let’s visit Tokyo Imperial Palace on foot from the station. For more info about Tokyo, you might also like these articles.
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Access: 5 mins from Tokyo station (Exit Marunouchi)
Closed: Sundays, Mondays and National holidays (Imperial Palace tour)/Mondays and Fridays (the East Garden)
For exploring the history and nature of Tokyo Imperial Palace, don’t forget to add this important spot to your itinerary in Tokyo. If you are interested in more info about Tokyo, check out these articles below!