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A Royal Tour of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace

June 3, 2008

A Royal Tour of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace, located in the heart of Tokyo, is home to the Emperor and Empress of Japan. The inner areas of the palace are closed to the public on all but two days of the year, January 2nd and December 23rd (The Emperor’s birthday) but if you plan ahead you can tour some of these areas and it’s free! The tour begins with a brief introductory video and then for 75 minutes you will be walking in the footsteps of royalty along a 2.2 kilometer (1.3 mile) route (tour map) that will offer you a view the beautiful Kasukiebori (Lotus Moat) and the Chowaden Hall where the Emperor receives greetings from and addresses the people who assemble on January 2nd and December 23rd. From there you will pass by the Imperial Palace itself (Kyuden) which is composed seven wings and is is used for both receiving state guests and holding official state ceremonies and functions. The building was completed in 1968 and has a large gabled and hipped roof and is embellished with Japanese architectural elements. You will then pass by the Fujimitamon defense house siting upon a stone wall rising approximately 20 meters above the the Hasuikebori Moat before walking along the tranquil and tree lined Yamashita-dori. At various points along the route you will encounter some of the ancient fortresses, or keeps, that surround the palace grounds.

This is one of those tours that will be well worth the time and effort that it takes to arrange and it’s free.

Application Guidelines for Tours of the Imperial Palace

Who can take the tour: Anyone over 18, minors under the age of 18 must be accompanied an adult aged 20 or older.
Tour Times: Weekdays at 10:00 AM and 1:30 PM (no 1:30 tour from July 21 to August 31 and no tours at all between December 28 and January 4 of the following year) (tour map)
Applications: Accepted by telephone (+81-(0)-3-3213-1111) or via the internet from the first day of the month preceding your desired tour date up to one day (four days for internet applications) before the tour date. Once your application has been accepted no changes can be made and you need to visit the Imperial Palace Tour office with proper identification to apply for a tour permit at least one day before the tour date.
Office Hours: From 8:45 AM to 12:00 noon and from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM on weekdays (closed on Saturdays, Sundays, National Holidays, and days from December 29 to January 3)

Visit the Imperial Household Agency website for details on the location of the Imperial Palace and to access the online application.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia, KokyoFushimiYaguraM1070