Take a tour or explore the leafy gardens for a taste of historic Tokyo.
Set in the midst of a large park surrounded by moats and massive stone walls, the Imperial Palace and the surrounding Kokyo Gaien National Garden form the largest green area in central Tokyo. The area is a beautiful sight viewed from one of the many skyscrapers in the neighbouring Marunouchi district or viewed up-close while having a relaxing stroll.
The current palace was constructed in 1888 and largely rebuilt in its original style after World War II. Before its construction, the site was the location of Edo Castle, which was home to the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 until 1867. When the shogunate was overthrown in 1868, the Imperial residence moved from Kyoto to Tokyo where the Imperial family have resided ever since.
The Imperial Palace grounds consist of three main parts: the Imperial Palace, the East Garden and Kokyo Gaien National Garden. Many visitors choose to explore the public areas or join a tour to find out more about the inner grounds. The 5 kilometre (3.1 miles) path around the site has become a mecca for hundreds of joggers who run the scenic route daily.
The Imperial Palace
The palace is the official residence of the Emperor and his family, as well as former Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun. It has various buildings that host several function rooms for state events as well as offices for the Imperial Household Agency, a concert hall and even a silkworm cocoonery.
The Inner Grounds
The inner grounds of the palace are generally not open to the public. Visitors can enter only on January 2nd (New Year's Greeting) and February 23rd (the Emperor’s birthday) when the Imperial family make an appearance to offer the general public good wishes and thanks.
However, tours are offered by the Imperial Household Agency in English and Japanese from Tuesday to Saturday by advanced reservation. Same-day reservations can be made at Kikyomon Gate but only when the tours have not been filled. The tour lasts about 75 minutes.
While the East Garden (Kokyo Higashi Gyoen) is part of the palace, it is also freely accessible from Otemon Gate, Hirakawamon Gate and Kita-Hanebashimon Gate on five days of the week (closed Monday and Friday). Hours of entry are 9am–4pm.
View of Nijubashi
From Kokyo Gaien National Garden visitors can view Nijubashi, the two bridges that form an entrance to the inner palace and are an iconic Instagram-worthy spot. The first is a stone bridge called Meganebashi (Eyeglass Bridge) due to its appearance. The second bridge was formerly a wooden bridge with two levels, from which the name Nijubashi (Double Bridge) is derived.
How to get there
As the palace is centrally located, it is a 5–10-minute walk from numerous stations including Nijubashi-mae, Otemachi, Tokyo and Takebashi.