The Imperial Palace in Tokyo: Ancient Residence in a Modern City

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The Imperial Palace in Tokyo: Ancient Residence in a Modern City

Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace in Chiyoda-ku is just a few steps from the Tokyo Station. Within its moats and walls rises the Imperial Residence, home to Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress. The Emperor is the symbolic head of Japan, preserving the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world.

The Shoguns of the Tokugawa family centralized control of Japan and built the Edo Castle in the early 1600s. The Imperial Palace now stands in the exact location where the Edo Castle once stood. This Imperial Palace reflects the heart of Tokyo preserving history and tradition in a country that’s arguably the most technologically advanced in the world.

This picture of our family shows the contrast we saw all over Tokyo–centuries-old history juxtaposed with urban, high-rise modernity.

Imperial Palace

Old and New

Old and New–Two ladies visit Tokyo’s Imperial palace. One in casual, modern clothing and the other dressed in the lovely, traditional kimono.

The East Gardens (皇居東御苑, Kōkyo Higashi Gyoen) are the only part of the inner palace that are free and open to the public. It’s closed on Mondays and Fridays. Although we entered without a reservation, you are encouraged to make reservations at least a day in advance. You will need your passport to enter.

The gardens date as far back as 600 B.C., and are the former site of Edo Castle’s innermost circles of defense. Here, our children let their hair down as their imaginations soared, running around the palace grounds. They were fascinated by  the massive entrance gates and guardhouses that still remain from the EDO period. Like most of Japan, the Imperial gardens are meticulously maintained.

Imperial Palace Grounds

Exploring ancient history on the grounds of the Imperial Palace. This spot is where His Majesty The Emperor gives public announcements.

Imperial Palace Door

Standing in front of the large Imperial Palace entrance.

Touring the gardens will work up an appetite. Whether you join the businessmen slurping a quick bowl of noodles near the station or join an elaborate tea served by kimono-clad server, you will have your pick of places to eat around Tokyo. There are several malls within walking distance that offer family-friendly restaurants. Dining after your Imperial Palace visit will round out a hearty taste of old and new in the center of Tokyo.  Eating Tokyo

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Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion
Brent and Stacey-jean Inion, parents of nine (including four children adopted with special needs), 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year and the National Geographic Travelers People's Choice Travelers of the Year. They love to laugh, to read and to explore as a family. The secret to their marital bliss is an early morning cup of freshly brewed coffee before the children awake.


  1. I have loved every place we’ve visited in Asia, and Japan is still on my list of places I would love to see. Thanks for the pictures!

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