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    Tokyo Imperial Palace, Kokyo, is the primary residence of the Japanese Head of State, the Emperor of Japan. The Tokyo Imperial Palace, which includes beautiful gardens that can be toured by the public.

    The actual Tokyo Imperial Palace buildings are located within the grounds of what was Edo Castle, which is said to be the most expensive square kilometer in the world. Many of Edo Castle’s moats, defensive walls, gate houses and turrets still remain. The term Kokyo literally means the Imperial Residence.

    Nijubashi Bridge at the Tokyo Imperial Palace

    Nijubashi Bridge at the Tokyo Imperial Palace

    It is said that scene above of the Nijubashi Bridge crossing the moat to the inner grounds of Tokyo Imperial Palace, is the most photographed scene in Japan.

    Tokyo Imperial Palace, located in Chiyoda, is effectively the center of Tokyo, which makes sense from a historical perspective as Edo Castle would have been the focus of the city of Edo (now referred to as Tokyo). Even with Japan’s change to a democracy and the decline in the power of the Emperor, Tokyo Imperial Palace has remained at the center of Tokyo with focus of the modern political power, the National Diet building, the Prime Ministers Offices and most of the government building just to the south over Sakurada moat. Then much of Tokyo’s financial power is located just to the west of Tokyo Imperial Palace with many of Japan’s major companies having there head offices there and it is not far to Tokyo Stock Exchange. Just to the west of Tokyo Imperial Palace, is Tokyo Station, the center of Japan’s train network.

    Moat, Wall and Turret at the Tokyo Imperial Palace

    Moat, Wall and Turret at the Tokyo Imperial Palace


    Foreigners can apply online to join a free guided tour of Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds, however you must book in advance. Depending on demand, you sometimes can get in at relative short notice. These tours are very popular and consist of large groups with hundreds of people in each group. The commentary on the tours is in Japanese, but a prerecorded English audio guide is available free of charge. There are also two special days of the year when the public are able to enter the grounds, January 2 (New Year) and December 23 (Emperor Akihito’s birthday), when the Imperial family makes a public appearance on the balcony of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

    Tokyo Imperial Palace

    Crowds on tour of the Tokyo Imperial Palace


    During the night of May 25th 1945, most of the Meiji era wooden buildings, including the main hall, were destroyed during fire bombing raid on Tokyo. The main hall, which was the largest building, had a traditional Japanese exterior with the roof having the same shape as Kyoto Imperial Palace.

    Kyuden Building Tokyo Imperial Palace

    Kyuden Building Tokyo Imperial Palace

    The Kyuden building, built in 1968, is used for formal functions.

    Markings of Sponsor on The Tokyo Imperial Palace Wall

    Markings of Sponsor on The Tokyo Imperial Palace Wall

    The above picture shows part of the inner wall which provides protection to the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The wall was built as part of the Edo Castle. Various wealthy sponsors provided materials and tradesmen to construct the Edo Castle. To ensure that other people in their society knew they made a contribution to the construction of Edo Castle they engraved their mark onto some of the stone blocks that made up the wall.

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    1 Review on “Tokyo Imperial Palace”

    1. Craig Fryer Post authorTokyo Imperial Palace
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      This one is a little hard to rate as it is almost two different experiences. I think for most people it is definitely worth seeing Tokyo Imperial Palace from the outside along with Nijubashi Bridge. However I don’t think it is worth most people doing the official tour of the inside of the grounds if they are only in Tokyo for a short time. The official tour is very structured, for obvious reasons, so you can spend more time looking at one and skipping over another. Other than the walls, many of which can be seen from the outside, there is little remaining of historic value inside the grounds.

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