The Imperial Palace is in central Tokyo, a reminder of the old in the middle of the hyper-modern architecture for which Tokyo is known. One of the things I loved about Tokyo is that there are parks and gardens all over the city, making it possible to escape the madness and relax, and the Imperial Palace Gardens are a great place to do just that. Japan is famous for its gardens and landscaping, and it’s not hard to see why.
The current Imperial Palace sits on the ruins of the Edo Castle, a fortress from the Edo period, during which it was the military capital of Japan. Initially, the castle was built mostly out of wood, and because of this, many of the buildings on the castle grounds were destroyed by fires over the years. Today, the Imperial Palace grounds contain a mix of post-World War II construction and remnants of the Edo Castle.
Since the Emperor of Japan resides here, the palace itself is usually closed to the public. In order to visit the palace grounds, it is necessary to book far in advance as there are a limited number of people allowed to enter the palace each day. However, there are sidewalks along the moat, and people regularly walk and run here. I love moats, so I walked around a bit to see the palace grounds from the outside.
After examining the odd-looking yellow algae growing in the moat (the stuff you see can see on the surface in the pictures), I headed over to the Imperial Palace East Garden. In addition to being an expansive garden with lots of nice trees and flowers, the Imperial Palace East Garden is free. At this point in my trip, I was trying to conserve money so I would have enough left over to get to the airport for my flight home. The ATMs that accept foreign cards in Japan usually only spit out money in multiples of 10,000 yen, which is approximately 100 USD. I needed approximately another 20 USD in order to be comfortable on money, but it seemed silly to extract another 100 USD from the ATM and have to exchange the rest later. So I chose to penny pinch instead.
The garden is quite popular, so there were a lot of people inside, but it is so large that it never felt crowded.
The palace was initially constructed during the Meiji Restoration in the late 1800s, but it was destroyed in the firebombing of Tokyo during World War II. Many of the structures currently there were rebuilt after the war.
The guardhouses inside the gardens were home to the guards who were responsibility for keeping the castle and its occupants secure while the castle functioned as a military capital in the Edo period.
There were originally nineteen keeps surrounding the castle, but today only three remain. Fujimi-yagura, the only three-storied keep, was so named because Mt. Fuji, the sacred mountain, was visible from it. Interestingly, it was also the place from which the Shogun occasionally watched fireworks over Tokyo bay.
Deeper in the garden was a mini tea plantation on a hill, which was especially interesting to me because of my love for tea. Japan is famous for its green tea, and I was excited for the chance to see some tea plants up close.
Even though it is spring, there were occasional trees sporting colored leaves, making for a nice contrast against the lush green of the surrounding trees.
At the far end of the garden sit the ruins of the original castle tower, a reminder of the garden’s history.
And of course, the requisite teahouse.
Plus, springtime means there were beautiful flowers everywhere.
What’s not to love about forests of flowers in the middle of the biggest city in the world?