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Royalty in Tokyo – The Imperial Palace

May 23, 2008

Royalty in Tokyo – The Imperial Palace

Across from the grand Imperial Hotel you will find the Imperial Palace, home to Their Majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Japan. The palace has housed the Imperial Household of Japan since 1868, when the imperial family relocated from Kyoto which had been the imperial capital for more than a thousand years.

Japan’s monarchy is the longest hereditary monarchy in the world and there have been 125 reigning monarchs since 660BC. Prior to 1889, Japan had eight female tennō or reigning empresses, but since that time Japanese law limits the succession to the throne to direct male descendants of the current emperor. This posed a problem until September 2006 when Prince Hisahito was born. Until that point the Imperial Household has 22 members and no male heir had been born into the imperial family since Prince Akishino, the Emperor’s second son and Prince Hisahito’s father, in 1965. This resulted in a potential succession crisis in Japan and there were some serious discussions about whether or not the law would need to be changed to allow a female to take the throne once again. Most everyday Japanese people did not support such a change.

His Imperial Majesty, The Emperor Akihito, ascended to the throne upon his father’s death in 1989. His father, Emperor Showa (Hirohito), led Japan through WWI and WWII and at the end of WWII was forced to publicly admit that he was not, as traditionally believed, a decendant of the Gods. The implementation of the post war constitution in 1947 limited the Emperor’s role to one that it is purely ceremonial.

The Imperial Palace is located in the heart of Tokyo and is closed to the public on all but two days of the year, January 2nd and December 23rd (The Emperor’s birthday) but it is definitely worth a visit.

Approaching on foot you will cross the Babasaki Moat to arrive at the vast Imperial Palace Plaza. Wander through the plaza to view the outer fortifications of the palace and the various and gates and bridges that cross the string of moats that surround the palace proper. Don’t forget your camera as there are many great photo opportunities at the Imperial Palace. One of the most photographed views from the Imperial Palace Plaza is that of the Niju-bashi bridge (pictured above).

To get to the Imperial Palace take the subway to either Tokyo or Nujibashi-mae Stations and walk towards the Sakashita-mon gate or the Niju-bashi bridge (map).

Historical Information Source: Wikipedia, Imperial House of Japan
Photo Credits: Wikipedia, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan & Flickr, Tokyo Imperial Palace 2