Tokyo Imperial Palace (皇居) is the main residence of the Japanese emperor. The palace is located on the former site of Edo Castle, which is located in a huge green area, surrounded by parks and massive stone walls, and only a few minutes walk from Tokyo station. The residence includes the main building, the private residences of the imperial family, a museum and administrative offices. Edo Castle once belonged to the Tokugawa shogun whose family ruled the area from 1603 to 1868. In 1868, the shogunate was demolished, and the capital as well as the imperial residence were moved to Tokyo.
In 1888, the construction of the new imperial palace was completed. The palace was destroyed during World War II and later rebuilt in the same style. In October 1945, in the final months of World War II, Emperor Hirohito met with his advisers and ministers in the palace's underground shelter, a room called Obunko Fuzokushitsu. The decision on the capitulation and surrender of Japan was made here.
The palace was not destroyed for the first time in the Second World War, but it was destroyed in fires during its history. During the Meiji period, most of the buildings of Edo Castle disappeared. Some were demolished to make way for other buildings while others were destroyed in fires or earthquakes that are common in Japan.
From a large beach in front of the Imperial Palace, visitors can see Nijubashi, two bridges that form the entrance to the interior of the palace. The stone bridge in front is called Meganebashi (glasses bridge) because of its appearance. The bridge used to be a wooden bridge with two levels, hence the name Nijubashi (double bridge).
The interior of the palace is not open to the public. Only on the following dates, January 2 (New Year's card) and February 23 (Emperor's birthday), visitors can enter the interior of the palace and see members of the royal family appearing on the balcony.
Visit to the Imperial Palace is FREE.
It is necessary to pre-register online or on the day of the visit on-site.
Visitors can visit the palaces with a guide. The tour lasts about 75 minutes and is held in English and Japanese languages at 10:00h and 13:30h. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
In the immediate vicinity of the palace are the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, which are open to the public all year round. The gardens are open from 09:00h to 17:00h. The gardens are also closed on Mondays and Sundays.