When Tokyo tourists say " I went to Imperial Palace". it means that they went to either of outer gardens of Imperial Palace open to public. Imperial Palace where Imperial Family reside is still no-go place and some part of the Palace is open only on January 2 and December 23(current Emperor's birthday). There are three outer gardens which serve as public parks.
1 Kokyo Gaien National Garden: Imperial Palace Park
It is a huge park filled with excellently trimmed pines. It is the place where you can peek through former Edo Castle area currently Imperial Family Residence. The northwestern part of the park is the best place to view Nijuubashi, two bridges which has long been one of the postcard views of Tokyo.
2 Kokyo Higashi Gyoen: Imperial Palace East Garden
It is the place where former Edo castle main buildings used to stand. Ninomaru garden is great as well
3 Kitanomaru Park
It is known as the place where Budokan Arena is located.
Tokyo Imperial is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park-like area located in the Chiyoda area close to Tokyo Station and contains several buildings including the main palace, the private residences of the imperial family, an archive, museum and administrative offices.
It is built on the site of the old Edo castle. The total area including the gardens is about 3.5 square kilometres.
The present Imperial Palace encompasses the retrenchments of the former Edo Castle. The modern palace Kyûden for various imperial court functions is located in the old Nishinomaru, while the residence of the emperor and empress is located in the Fukiage Gardens.
PS: Photos aren't mine (see Tourist Trap Tip), but I have taken the same shots...
The Imperial East Garden is part of the Imperial Palace but it stands outside of the modern residence and is open to visitors without reservation. The park features gardens and ruins from Edo Castle which was home to the Tokugawa shogunate from the 17th century to the 19th century. The Emperor also lived here temporarily before the Imperial Palace was built nearby.
In the center stands the walls from the castles donjon which burned down and was never rebuilt. From atop the ruins, there is a great view over the expansive lawn in front and the skyscrapers in the distance. There is a concert hall, museum of Imperial artifacts/objects, and guardhouses within the grounds as well as a plum grove and other gardens. It's a pretty place to walk around and entrance is free so it's worth it as part of a visit to the Imperial Palace.
Hours vary by season and the Imperial East Garden is closed on Mondays and Fridays as well as New Years.
Covering the eastern part of the Imperial palace grounds the eastern gardens is well worth a visit. Admission price is FREE so take some time to walk around and if your here at the right time to see the cherry blossoms... we took our time and it we were there about 2 hours... it's a nice way to spend a lazy afternoon
If you are looking for peace, quiet and a quintessential Japanese garden experience, then head straight for the center of Tokyo, where the Imperial palace Gardens look to shoeld you from all the urban bustle. One of the city's great lungs, the Imperial Palace Gardens offer plum blossoms (if you're there in the spring), open fields and a peaceful Japanese koi pond surrounded by blooming bushes. It's free, so you'll see lots of locals escaping to relax in the calm.
One intersting note is that the Imperial Palace Garden has a tree representing all of Japan's prefectures. That's amazing, given the vast north-to-south expanse covered by Japan. But you can see cyclide from Okinawa along side some type of tree from Hokkaido (forgive me: not a botanist!).
The Otemon gate was destroyed in 1945 and reconstructed in 1968. Historically Otemon gate was important gate and was used by the noblemen presenting themselves to the Shogun. Today the Otemon gate is still important as it is still use as the main gate to enter East Garden.
The East Gardens is next and part of the Imperial Palace and open to public. Historically it was the former site of defensive circle and the shogun's castle of Edo who later became the Imperial Palace.
Today the East Gardens is more like a large park painted with beautiful traditional Japanese gardens, a small forest, ceremony tea house, stone remnants of Edo Castle and three historical gates the Otemon, Hirakawamon and Kitahanebashimon. We entered from Otemon gates. The garden consists of ponds with bridges and waterfalls, Japanese carps swimming under the water lilies, well cut hedges surrounded by colourful flowers, well pruned pine trees and cherry blossoms. In the Ninomaru Garden is Suwa no chaya teahouse. The East Gardens is a nice location for a walk or to relax and enjoy the surrounding.
Business Hours 9:00am-4:30pm; Closed Mon & Fri
Price Admission: FREE
Take a stroll in this beautiful garden which was part of the Emperor’s private garden. The Palace is bordered by huge concrete walls. We have to walk quite deep in to see the palace. The guards were standing guard at the gate. This was the furthest we could reach and many gathered here to take a picture.
The palace is an ideal place for joggers and cyclist. We see a lot of people exercising under the hot sun.
Bicycles are rented out for free. You may wish to cycle around to see the vast Imperial Garden. There are lots of pine tress that are planted. The Tokyo Tower can be seen from the garden.
The Imperial Palace (Kokyo) is located on the former site of Edo Castle, a large park area surrounded by moats and massive stone walls in the center of Tokyo, a short walk from Tokyo station. It is the residence of Japan's Imperial Family.
Edo was once the castle of the Tokugawa shogun, who ruled Japan from 1603 until 1867. In 1868, the shogun was deposed, the shogunate finished and the country's capital and Imperial Residence were moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. In 1888 the construction of a new Imperial Palace was completed. It has been destroyed during World War Two, but rebuilt in the same style.
The palace and inner gardens are not open to the public. Only on January 2 (New Year's Greeting) and December 23 (Emperor's Birthday), visitors are able to enter the inner palace grounds and see the members of the Imperial Family, who make several public appearances on a balcony.
We visited the Outer Imperial Gardens on our morning tour. The imperial palace is protected by two moats. The moats have survived ww2 and the great Kanto earthquake. It is a beautiful peaceful place and we definitely could not see the imperial palace from where we were.
There is something about a Japanese garden that is… well… relaxing. I am not a garden person and I don’t care about flowers. Yet I spent hours walking and sitting in the Imperial Palace Gardens. Maybe it was just because I was exhausted. It was the end of my trip and the press of street chaos had taken its toll.
Wait until the city is starting to feel oppressive. Let the noise and the fumes and deluge of people exhaust you. Then find the gardens. Pick a quiet spot and listen to the trickle of water.
You may find peace.
The Imperial Palace is private so you can't get to see it. In front of the two bridges leading to the Imperial Palace Garden are the closest you can get. There are some volunteer helpers cleaning the Garden and they do this so as to see a glimpse of the Imperial family who - so I was told - as a reward then come to a balcony and wave at the volunteers. There is a long waiting list to get to be a volunteer helper.
In addition to this, there are just two days annually when the Garden is open to public, but I forget which days they were. Probably the Emperor's birthday or something and the New Year. There were two swans gliding gracefully on the water.
I would not suggest you to go there, unless you are obsessed with gardens. It's free to enter, however there is nothing to do. There is no access to the palace...and actually you cannot even see it. I would say it's waste of time.
The Pines trees are well structured in the garden, just like a large scale Bonzai. I felt so "little" in this garden... like Alice in the Wonderland. Despite this, it gives a calm and peaceful feeling.
The Imperial Palace East Gardens (Kokyo Higashi Gyoen) are a part of the inner palace area and are open to the public. The East Gardens are the former site of Edo Castle's innermost circles of defense, the honmaru (main circle) and ninomaru (secondary circle). None of the main buildings remain today, but the moats, walls, entrance gates and several guardhouses can still be seen.
Edo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Emperor Meiji also resided there from 1868 to 1888 before moving to the newly constructed Imperial Palace.
A wide lawn and the remaining foundation of the former castle tower can be found on top of the hill, where the castle's innermost buildings once stood. The castle tower was completed in 1638 as the tallest castle tower in Japan's history. But only a few years later in 1657, it was destroyed by citywide fires and was never rebuilt.
In place of the former buildings in the secondary circle of defense (ninomaru) at the foot of the hill, a tranquil Japanese-style garden has been created.