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What to Know Before Exploring The Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Entrance to the Imperial Palace East Gardens
Entrance to the Imperial Palace East Gardens

The Imperial Palace is a huge park-like area in Tokyo where the Emperor of Japan lives. The Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public and are beautiful! And they are free to tour. I’m going to show off some photos of the gardens, as well as a tour of the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace…which we had gotten very lucky and were able to tour the day we were there!

But anyways, a little history lesson first…the gardens are actually the former site of Edo Castle’s innermost circles of defense. Edo Castle was built in 1457. None of the main buildings remain today, but the moats, walls, entrance gates and several guardhouses are still there. (I’ll show photos of those in a second.)

The photo below is actually what remains of the Edo Castle’s main tower. You can walk up it to get a better view of the gardens.

Edo castle main tower
The view from what remains of Edo Castle’s main tower.
The view from the main tower
The view from the main tower remains.

I’m not going to lie, I kind of feel like we visited the gardens at the wrong time of year. While they are beautiful, they were a bit underwhelming compared to some of the gardens I’ve visited. However, I’ve seen incredible photos of The East Gardens during the fall and spring.

Nonetheless, the gardens are still impressive. I do sometimes I wonder how they get it all to be so precise if they use weedeaters, lawn mowers or the old fashioned way of scissors!
Imperial Palace East Gardens

And everything was very green that’s for sure! I also really enjoyed the koi ponds.

koi pond

What I found to be particularly interesting about the gardens were the guard houses that still remained (from 1457). The one pictured below was believed to have played a crucial role because it was the final checkpoint…and it was guarded by only samurai of the highest ranks! (How cool is that – really important samurais!?)

east garden guard house tokyo

east garden guard house tokyo

The photo gallery below is more photos of The Imperial Palace East Gardens. You can click on the photos to read their captions if you’d like to learn more. I’ll talk about our tour of the Imperial Palace inner grounds after the gallery.

You can visit the inner grounds!

Ok, now for the part not open to the public – the inner grounds! What you should do if you want to tour this area is try to book ahead through the Imperial Household Agency’s website. We were very lucky and just happened upon a tour that had all of 3 spots left and was the last one of the day. (They have tours Monday – Saturday, at 10 am and 1:30 pm.) Again, the tours are free, but you need to have your ID on you and fill out some paperwork before you enter the grounds. But here’s the catch, the tours are only in Japanese. So, we had absolutely no idea what was going on when we took this tour! (Sorry.)

Fujimi-yagura (Mt Fuji-view keep), guard building within the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace
Fujimi-yagura (Mt Fuji-view keep), guard building within the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace

But here’s my one piece of history for this part…. the palace was built in 1968 to replace the one that was originally built in 1888…but had been destroyed in WWII. There, that’s what I know!

You can also click on the photos to see my guesses at what it is that I had seen! (The buildings were all gorgeous too!)

While I am very happy I was able to see The Imperial Palace, if this something that is high on your list of place to visit in Tokyo – try to come during the fall or spring…the foliage/flowers look breathtaking, from what I gather, during those times of the year. Summer is very humid and very green! 🙂

I’m off to hike Mount Fuji this weekend! Wish me luck! Haha. It should be interesting!

Has anyone else been to The Imperial Palace? What did you think? And what are some of your favorite gardens in your area? (I’m a big fan of Longwood Gardens!) Let me know in the comments!

To see my outfit post from The Imperial Palace, click here.

Exploring The Imperial Palace
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  1. Amanda Brezovsky says:

    Im also a big fan of Longwood Gardens myself and the Hershey Gardens are also very pretty. Any gardens are lovely to visit haha! This is so neat to see! I watched the Netflix show Marco Polo and this kind of reminds me of that. Im always a fan of history and prettiness being rolled into one.


    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Oooh I never made it to the Hershey Gardens! And I agree, any gardens are lovely to visit! Haha. I have to watch Marvo Polo!! My husband had started watching it a while back and he loves it too!

  2. Gorgeous palace! Have never been, but would love to visit. Really like that it’s so green almost as if you’re in an enchanting forest!
    Have a great one!


    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Oh yes, it did feel very much like an enchanted forest! Thank you so much for reading, Radi! Hope you have a great weekend too! 🙂

  3. Avant-garde says:

    Loved the post! And… you look amazing and beautiful in your Profile picture <3 <3 🙂

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Aw, thank you so much! 🙂

  4. Gil Zetbase says:

    So beautiful pictures!
    Have a nice week-end!
    Photographer Gil Zetbase

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Thank you so much, Gil! Hope you have a nice weekend too!

  5. Oh my wooord, I loved loved loved the pictures – no joke! I am such a fan of samurai stories and places like that – the Imperial Palace looks incredible and Edo’s Castle too. Maybe you felt it was not the right time of the year to visit it, I can understand – but I am finding all so beautiful! Hope you have a very lovely weekend! Waiting for your next pictures!

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Oh gosh, thank you, Denise! I’m so excited you enjoyed this post! I hope you have a lovely weekend too! 🙂

  6. Lee (@leethrifts) says:

    I’ve heard so many things about the Imperial palace! It’s been somewhere on my list for quite a while. But really I can’t wait to hear about your post on Mount Fuji!!! Your time in Japan really looks amazing, Lindsey!

    Lee – leethrifts.com

    1. haveclotheswilltravel says:

      Thank you so much, Lee! I’m so glad you’re enjoying my posts! Mount Fuji was amazing!! 🙂

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