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.
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.
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.
If you enjoyed this article, we would love for you to share this on Facebook, Pin it, or leave us a comment. Have you toured the Imperial Palace grounds?