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The Imperial Palace: A regal residence in the heart of a modern city

Posted on January 18, 2021

The Imperial Palace, located in the Chiyoda District of the Chiyoda Ward, has remained the residence of the Japanese Imperial family since 1868. In place of where the old Edo Castle once stood, the Imperial Palace today is situated amidst a backdrop of high-rise buildings, making for a perfect example of Japan’s ever-recurring theme of the old mixed in with the new, the traditional and the modern. With the gardens covering a large expanse of the Chiyoda District, the Imperial Palace is easily accessible from multiple stations in the heart of Tokyo including Otemachi, Marunouchi, Hibiya, Ginza, and Tokyo stations. Although the land of the Imperial Palace is known to be the most valued land in Japan, its beauty is shared with the many who walk past or run around the grounds every day.

Imperial Palace Nijubashi Bridge

photo by @hilu_artplace

Nijūbashi bridge, meaning ‘double bridge’ is regarded as one of the most famous bridges in Japan. The bridge is one of the main attractions in the Kokyo Gaien National Gardens which first opened to the public in 1949.

Imperial Palace Nijubashi Bridge

photo by @haga.stagram

The inner grounds of the Imperial Palace are closed off to the public, except on New Year’s Greeting Day (January 2) and Emperor’s Birthday (February 23) respectively. On these days, people are allowed inside to the inner palace grounds to glimpse members of the Imperial Family from a distance as they wave from a balcony! In addition to these two days, the bridge only opens on select days of the year. These include special events reserved for official state guests and for formal ceremonies at the Palace.


Imperial Palace Swan

photo by @uka_hanehana

Wildlife abounds in and around the Imperial Palace and its plentiful gardens. Aside from the swans and ducks, other types of animals that you might be lucky enough to spot include bullfrogs, turtles, the common kingfisher, the azure winged magpie, and the Japanese tit among many others.

Imperial Palace Walls

photo by @dkc912

The Palace itself is surrounded by high stone walls, a beautiful mix of deciduous and evergreen trees that capture the essence of the seasons, topped off with the highly contrasting backdrop of office buildings that altogether make for a truly breathtaking scene.

Imperial Palace Pine Trees

photo by @themetroclassic

The gardens around the Nijūbashi Bridge, where you can see hundreds of Japanese pine trees that are said to represent longevity and good fortune.

Imperial Palace

photo by @enriconic

Imperial Palace Moat

photo by @p.noway

A large moat stretches along the walls of the Palace. The path around the Imperial Palace (5km) is one of the most popular running routes in Japan. One interesting thing about running here is that you’ll notice all the runners tend to run counterclockwise around the Palace which helps to regulate the flow of joggers at all times.

Imperial Palace Moat

photo by @themetroclassic

Guided tours are available for people to gain access to a more exclusive view of the Palace, including views of Mt. Fuji and the Lotus Moat. The tours commence at 10am and 1:30pm at the Kikyomon Gate, and are offered in both Japanese and English with some other languages available on headsets.


Imperial Palace Guardhouse

photo by @nonianaprana

The Doshin-bansho Guardhouse is the residence of the Imperial Palace guards. Advance bookings are required due to the restrictions on visitations, but entrance itself is free! Same day registration is also available, but make sure to arrive early to ensure you save yourself a spot!


Written by: Maya Kimura Watts