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On Walkabout At: The Tokyo Imperial Palace

Basic Information

Narrative

Another must see destination during any visit to the Japanese capitol city of Tokyo is a stop to see where the country’s ancient monarchy lives at the Imperial Palace:

Japan is considered to have the world’s oldest continuous monarchy and this stronghold castle in the middle of Tokyo is where the royal family lives:


View Larger Map

Here is a map that shows the layout of the palace’s grounds:

This palace has been the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan and his family since 1868.  Prior to that this palace was the residence of the various Tokugawa era shoguns who had run the country for centuries.  After the Meiji Restoration of 1867 that overthrew the shogunate that had been in power since 1603; the status of the Emperor was restored and he was given this palace in Tokyo as his residence.

Today a large part of the palace is open to the public to walk around and enjoy the palace’s various garden and historical sites:

One of the most impressive aspects of the palace is the large moat and impressive walls that completely surround the castle:

Nijubashi Bridge

When walking around this palace it is easy to imagine what an impossible task any invading Army back then would have had trying to take this castle due to its moat and rock walls back during the country’s feudal past.

One of the first sites seen when walking into the palace is this guardhouse which was once manned by senior samurai that would be the final security check for anyone entering the palace:

Obansho: Great Guardhouse

Here is another prominent historical site of what was once the largest structure on the palace’s grounds:

Tenshudai: Donjon Base

This huge rock foundation is called the Tenshudai Donjon Base.  The first residence for the shogun was constructed on the palace’s grounds here in 1607.  The construction of the building began under the 2nd Tokugawa Shogun Hidetada and wasn’t completed until 1638 under the third shogun Iemitsu.  The building was 58 meters tall and was the largest palace structure ever constructed in all of Japan.  Unfortunately the building didn’t last very long because it burned down during a fire in 1657.

Besides being a key cultural and historical site in Tokyo the Imperial Palace and its surrounding gardens also serve as a massive green space in one of the world’s most heavily populated and developed cities:

The palace’s garden also has large sidewalks great for walking or bicycling:

Conclusion

If in Tokyo I recommend taking some time to see the Imperial Palace.  It really is a beautiful location that provides some insight into the history of the Japanese monarchy.  A visit to the palace is free and on January 2 the New Year’s Greeting and December 23 the Emperor’s Birthday visitors are even able to enter the inner palace grounds and meet members of the Imperial Family.  Even if you don’t get to see royalty it is still a nice place to visit and check out.

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