Tokyo Imperial Palace is one of the must-see places when touring Japan particularly Tokyo. It is a vast green space at the heart of the country's financial and government district, just a few blocks outside Tokyo Station. Every new year, the palace ground becomes crowded as people fall in line to see and hear Emperor. On ordinary days, visitors can only access the Imperial East Garden and the Kokyo Gaien. Both are outside the palace.
Sometime in April, one of our friends asked if I have been to the Tokyo Imperial Palace. I told him that I visited the Imperial Gardens several times and had a bus tour around it when I first came to Japan. However, I have not yet been inside the main palace grounds when it is opened to the public. Mainly because I do not like to wait for hours standing in a big crowd. He then told me about the special palace tour. The tour is offered only on Sundays and Mondays and can only accommodate a certain number of guests per group. Registration is necessary prior to the desired tour date. (To see the tour schedule and to register, please click the "special palace tour"). Our friend was kind enough to make the reservations on our behalf a month before our desired schedule.
Trying Out the Tokyo Imperial Palace Tour
We were fortunate to reserve a tour just in time when my husband's parents came to visit Tokyo. Around 10:00 in the morning, we were at Kikyo-mon Gate to get our pass. Once all reserved guests got their passes, we were then led to the Someikan or Visitors' House. We were first briefed about the tour especially the dos and donts during the tour. While waiting for the proper tour to start, some visitors went to the souvenir shop which is also inside the Someikan.
Although we did not have the chance to enter the buildings, it was a good experience to walk and see the inner palace grounds. We were able to see up close the Fujimi-yagura (Mt. Fuji-view Keep). It is one of the oldest remnants of Edo Castle.
We also passed by in front of the Imperial Household Agency Building on our way to the Kyuden Totei Plaza. This plaza is in front of Chowaden Hall of the Imperial Palace. This area gets full of people who want to see the Emperor and the Royal Family on the Emperor's Birthday and New Year's Day.
After that we went to the Seimon-tetsubashi, popularly known as Nijubashi. Nijubashi means two bridges parallel to each other. During our tour, we had the opportunity to walk on the inner bridge. On our way back to Someikan, we took the Yamashita-dori and had the chance to see the inner small gardens.