About the Imperial Palace | Detailed history and overview

🕓 2024/5/15

Detailed explanation of the history and outline of the Imperial Palace

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 table of contents

  1. Overview of the Imperial Palace
  2. history of the imperial palace
  3. Must-see spots at the Imperial Palace
  4. The Emperor's workplace "Palace"
  5. Imperial Palace events and festivals
  6. imperial palace access


The Imperial Palace, located in the center of Tokyo, reigns as a symbol of Japan with its history. Once known as Edo Castle, this area is now the official residence of the Emperor and the stage for national ceremonies. The gardens and architecture surrounding the Imperial Palace reflect Japanese tradition and natural beauty and attract many visitors throughout the year.

In this article, we will first introduce an overview of the Imperial Palace, and then explain its long history and important events. We will also provide detailed information on must-see spots such as East Garden and Nijubashi Bridge, important events and seasonal festivals held at the Imperial Palace, and access information you should know when visiting.

Through this article, we hope that you will be able to understand the magnificent scenery of the Imperial Palace as well as the history and culture behind it, and that you will be able to fully enjoy its magnificent beauty and history.



1. Overview of the Imperial Palace

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The Imperial Palace is a symbol of Japan and is known as the official residence of the Emperor, the country's highest authority. This vast facility is located in what was once Edo Castle, and occupies approximately 20% of the area in the southern part of Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. After changing its name from Edo Castle in 1868, it was also called Miyagi for a time, but in 1948 it was changed back to its current name, ``Imperial Palace.''

The grounds of the Imperial Palace include the Imperial Palace, where the Emperor lives on a daily basis, and the Palace, where various official events are held. In addition, gardens such as the East Garden of the Imperial Palace are open to the public and are visited by many tourists and citizens. In particular, the East Garden of the Imperial Palace is a garden that includes parts of the Honmaru, Ninomaru, and Sannomaru of the former Edo Castle, and was opened to the public in 1961. This garden was the brainchild of Emperor Showa, and you can enjoy the beauty of a Japanese garden.

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The palace is a place where state affairs, imperial events, and welcome events for foreign heads of state are held.The architecture is designed to incorporate the beauty of ancient Japan, and most of the building materials are domestically produced. The main buildings include Seiden, Toyomeiden, and Rensui, each with their own unique role and history.

Although Tokyo's Imperial Palace is located in the center of the city, its vast grounds and lush gardens set it apart from the modern buildings, providing a tranquil space where time seems to have stopped. . It is lined with skyscrapers made of glass and steel, and is filled with daily hustle and bustle. However, once you step inside the Imperial Palace, you'll find yourself in a different world, with its natural beauty of old stone walls, carefully maintained pine trees, gently flowing water in the moat, and seasonal flowers.

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The Imperial Palace attracts many visitors from within Japan and abroad due to its historical background and contemporary cultural role. Its beautiful gardens and historic buildings are a symbol of Japanese tradition and culture, and it is one of Japan's leading tourist destinations.




2. history of the imperial palace


Muromachi period to Edo period

The history of the Imperial Palace dates back to the time when the land was once Edo Castle. Built in 1457 by Ota Dokan, the ruler of Musashi Province, this castle served as a strategic point. It was later chosen by Tokugawa Ieyasu as the political center of the shogunate in 1603 and greatly expanded. Due to this expansion, Edo Castle flourished as the center of Japanese politics and culture for the next 260 years.

Throughout the Edo period, Edo Castle underwent many renovations and expansions, establishing its status as a magnificent castle. There were several sections within the castle, including the Honmaru, Ninomaru, and Sannomaru, where important people of the shogunate lived, and it also functioned as a political venue. Edo Castle is also known for its huge structure and luxurious decoration, and is also known for having many cultural assets.


Meiji period to Showa period

In 1868, when Emperor Meiji visited Tokyo from Kyoto, Edo Castle ushered in a new era as the "Imperial Palace." During this period, the Imperial Palace became a symbol of Japan's modernization and civilization, and underwent many architectural and social changes.

After being reorganized as the Imperial Palace during the Meiji period, it was also called "Miyagi" from 1888 to 1948, during which time various architectural changes were made. Of particular importance is the New Palace, built in 1888 and designed in a style that blends traditional Japanese architecture with Western architectural techniques. However, this palace was burnt down in an air raid during World War II, and reconstruction of the burnt-out palace was delayed after the war.

After the war, the name "Miyagi" was officially changed to "Imperial Palace" in 1948, and a new era began. Construction of the new palace began in 1959 based on the recommendations of the Imperial Palace Construction Council, and was completed in 1968. This new palace was established separately from the previous imperial palace and is used for official business by the imperial family.


Heisei era to present

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From the Heisei era to the present, the Imperial Palace has undergone many developments that keep up with modern changes while retaining its historical and cultural significance. During this period, the Imperial Palace became the stage for various domestic and international events, and also served as a public space.

With the beginning of the Heisei era, the Imperial Palace became more open, often opening its gardens and historic buildings to the general public. In particular, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace is open to the public and is loved by visitors for its beautiful gardens and old architecture. You can see many historical remains here, including the site of the former Edo Castle castle tower.

The modern-day Imperial Palace is also used as a venue for many cultural and historical events, and regularly hosts exhibitions and concerts introducing traditional Japanese culture and art. As a result, the Imperial Palace also serves as the cultural center of Japan. While giving a sense of history, it also serves as an oasis in the city.






3. Must-see spots at the Imperial Palace

Statue of Masashige Kusunoki

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The statue of Masashige Kusunoki, located in the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace, is an impressive bronze statue with a height of approximately 8 meters, and is known as one of the three largest bronze statues in Tokyo. Masashige Kusunoki agreed with Emperor Go-Daigo's plan to overthrow the shogunate, and was given the official title of Hyōeijo. Due to his ties to the Hattori family, a family of ninjas, he used ninja tactics to contribute to the success of overthrowing the shogunate.

This statue depicts Masashige Kusunoki's brave appearance when he welcomed Emperor Godaigo, and depicts him controlling his horse, pulling the reins, and bowing his head in worship. It was created in 1891 by the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (now Tokyo University of the Arts), and the copper used was provided by the Besshi Copper Mine in Ehime Prefecture.



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Kikyomon is also called Inner Sakuradamon and is the counterpart of Outer Sakuradamon (currently Sakuradamon). The other name "Kikyoumon" has been used since the Edo period, and there are various theories about the origin of this name. It is said that this is because a tile with a bellflower pattern from the period of Dokan Ota was found when Ieyasu entered the city. Even now, the oni tile of the gate is decorated with bellflower crests, symbolizing its historical importance.

Kikyomon itself was built in 1614 (Keicho 19), and the stone wall around it was built in 1620 (Genna 6). Even today, the square-shaped structure consisting of the Korai Gate and the Watari-mon Gate remains, and these gates are part of Edo Castle's defense system, and are a reminder of its former strategic design.

Along with its beautiful architecture, Kikyomon Gate is an important historical heritage site that strongly reflects the political and military background of the Edo period, and is a place that gives visitors a sense of the atmosphere of that era.



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Otemon is the main gate connecting Edo Castle and the castle town, and served as the front gate of the Tokugawa shogunate throughout the Edo period. This gate was built by Todo Takatora in 1607 and later restored by Date Masamune. This gate, which cost a great deal of money and effort, played an important role as the main access point into the castle and as a strategic defensive structure.

A ``dismounting station'' was set up in front of the Otemon gate, where followers other than the daimyo dismounted from their horses and ascended the castle on foot. The Otemon gates that still exist today are Koraimon (Ichinomon), Masugata Hiroba, and Watariyaguramon (Ninomon), and the stone walls have ``Ishizama'' for shooting down enemies. The Otemon Gate functioned as an important structure symbolizing the authority of the Shogunate until the end of the Edo period.



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Sakuradamon is one of the important gates of Edo Castle, and its name became widely known in 1860 during the ``Sakuradamon Incident'' in which Dairo Ii Naosuke was assassinated. Because of this incident, the gate has become an important symbol in Japanese history. Officially called the ``Outer Sakuradamon'', it is the opposite gate to the Inner Sakuradamon (Kikyoumon).

The Soto Sakuradamon Gate was completed in 1620 and is characterized by its strong stone wall and square-shaped structure. Further renovations took place in 1636, when it was rebuilt into its current form. The name ``Sakuradamon'' comes from the fact that this area was once called ``Sakurada-go.'' After being damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake, it was rebuilt and designated as a national important cultural property in 1961.


Main gate iron bridge

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The main gate iron bridge is one of the two bridges that span the moat from the plaza in front of the Imperial Palace to the palace, and together with the main gate stone bridge located in the foreground, it is widely referred to as the "Nijubashi", but officially it is called the "Nijubashi". "Hashi" refers to the main gate iron bridge. This iron bridge was given its name because there was once a wooden bridge known as Nishinomaru Shimo-no-ride Bridge, which was designed with a double structure to accommodate the depth of the moat.

The main gate iron bridge was first built as an iron bridge in 1888, and was repaired to its current form in 1964. At this time, advanced rust prevention technology was introduced, including the use of zinc thermal spraying for the first time in Japan. The bridge is usually not open to the public and is only used for official events such as New Year's public visits and visits by foreign guests to the Imperial Palace.

On the other hand, the main gate stone bridge in the foreground has a design influenced by Western architecture and is made of Hanaoka Rock. These two bridges are familiar to many visitors as part of the beautiful scenery of the plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, and as important structures symbolizing Japanese history.


Fushimi Yagura

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Fushimi Yagura is a historical structure located in the Nishinomaru of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and its name comes from the relocated turret of Fushimi Castle from Fushimi, Kyoto. It is said that this traditional Japanese architecture originally belonged to Fushimi Castle, which was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and was later rebuilt as Edo Castle by order of Tokugawa Iemitsu, but this story is unconfirmed and remains speculation. I won't leave.

Fushimi Yagura, along with Tamon Yagura, which was built on top of a stone wall for defensive purposes, forms a beautiful landscape together with the white-walled turret. After collapsing in the Great Kanto Earthquake, it was dismantled and restored, so the current structure is a faithful reproduction of the original structure.

This turret can be seen from the plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, and is a perfect combination of the Western architectural beauty of the main gate stone bridge in the foreground and the traditional Japanese castle beauty. It is especially popular with tourists and students on school trips, and is also known as a spot where many people take commemorative photos.


Fujimi Yagura

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Fujimi Yagura is a three-tiered turret located within the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, located at the southern end of the main enclosure of Edo Castle, to the left after entering the Chujaku Gate. This turret is approximately 16 meters high and has a uniform shape no matter what angle you look at it, so it is also called the ``Yagura that faces in all directions''. Fujimi Yagura is a building that played an important role as a replacement after the castle tower was destroyed in the Great Meireki Fire of 1657.

The first construction of Fujimi Yagura dates back to 1606 (Keicho 11), and the stone wall of the tower was built by Kiyomasa Kato and is one of the oldest stone walls remaining within the castle grounds. It was rebuilt in 1659 (Manji 2), and has undergone several renovations since then. In particular, it was severely damaged during the Great Kanto Earthquake, and was rebuilt using old materials.

This turret used to offer a panoramic view of Mt. Fuji, the Chichibu Mountain Range, Mt. Tsukuba, and Tokyo Bay, and was named Fujimi Yagura due to its beautiful scenery. It is also known as the location of a poem written by Dokan Ota, and is said to have been influenced by the line, ``My hermitage is near the Matsubara Tsudzuki sea, and I can see the high peak of Mt. Fuji from the edge of the eaves.''


Ninomaru Garden

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Ninomaru Garden is a Japanese garden located within the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and was restored in 1965 (Showa 40) based on garden drawings from the era of the 9th Shogun Ieshige of the Edo period. This garden is located around the Ninomaru Palace, which was built for the shogun's heir and legal wife, and has a history of being first created in 1630 (Kanei 7) by Kobori Enshu, a famous samurai tea master. .

Ninomaru Garden was designed as a strolling garden with a pond, and its beautiful scenery has been popular as a place for viewing and entertainment since the Edo period. The main features of the garden are its clever layout that incorporates nature and the landscape with seasonal plants. In 1968, it was developed as a garden attached to the Imperial Palace as part of the East District of the Imperial Palace, completed in 1968, and subsequently opened to the public.

The garden was designed using the garden drawings of the 9th Shogun Ieshige, which have been preserved as historical documents, and efforts have been made to faithfully recreate the garden as it once was.


Edo Castle castle tower ruins


The remains of the castle tower of Edo Castle are located in the main keep of the current Imperial Palace in Tokyo. There used to be a magnificent castle tower at this location, symbolizing the authority of the Edo Shogunate, but it was destroyed in the Meireki Great Fire in 1657 and was never rebuilt.

The stone walls of this castle tower are stained black with soot as a result of the three great fires of Edo. Just before you climb up to the platform of the castle tower, there is a well called ``Kinmeisui.'' This well was dug in anticipation of a siege during wartime, and existed in the basement of the small castle tower during the Iemitsu era. The water from this well was considered an important water source when the castle tower was still functioning.

The castle tower itself was constructed of granite to a height of 18 meters under construction by the Maeda family of the Kaga domain, and the castle tower was not rebuilt in subsequent eras due to the recommendation of Masayuki Hoshina, uncle of the fourth shogun Ietsuna. This proposal was made because the castle tower, a symbol of the Sengoku period, was considered outdated, and reconstruction of the castle town should be prioritized. There is a large space at the top with a bench in the center where visitors can enjoy a break.


Imperial Household Agency Building


The Imperial Household Ministry Building is located within the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and its history and architectural style play an important role in the history of modern architecture in Japan. The original building was a Western-style building designed by British architect Josiah Conder, but it was severely damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake and subsequently demolished. The current Imperial Household Ministry building was rebuilt later and was completed in 1935.

The design of the new government building has changed from the pure Western architecture of its predecessor, and is characterized by an exterior that incorporates many Japanese-style elements. The Imperial Household Ministry building was also used as a temporary palace for a time. The Imperial Palace was damaged in an air raid in May 1945, and the Meiji Palace was burnt down, so the third floor of the government building was renovated in 1952, and the new palace was completed in 1968. Until then, it functioned as a temporary palace.

This government building is still used as the Imperial Household Agency building, and plays an important role in official events within the Imperial Palace, such as public visits during New Year's and the Emperor's birthday. You can also enter the Imperial Palace during regular tours.




The palace is a facility where the Emperor of Japan conducts official ceremonies such as state affairs and imperial events, and its use began in April 1969. This facility was built on the site of the Meiji Palace, which was destroyed by fire, and is located in the Nishinomaru area of the Imperial Palace. This building, also known as the New Palace, is made of steel-framed reinforced concrete and consists of two floors above ground and one floor underground, with a total floor area of approximately 35,789.89 square meters.

Although it survived the Great Kanto Earthquake, Meiji Palace was destroyed in a massive air raid on May 25, 1945 during the Pacific War. Afterwards, part of the Imperial Household Agency building was temporarily renovated and used as a temporary palace, but as international exchanges increased, plans were made to rebuild a new palace. Construction work on the new palace began in 1964 (Showa 39) and was completed on November 14, 1968 (Showa 43).

The current palace, which has the beauty of ancient Japanese architecture, functions as a place for national events and public ceremonies, and does not include the residential area that was in the Meiji Palace, so it is mainly used as an official venue. The specific buildings include Seiden, Toyoakeden, Rensui, Chowaden, and Chigusa/Chidori-ma, each of which is designed to accommodate specific ceremonies and events. Beautiful courtyards, east and south gardens also open onto these buildings, offering a different natural beauty in each season.



4. The Emperor's workplace "Palace"


Middle gate (Nakamon) - East garden (Toutei)

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Every year on New Year's Day and the Emperor's birthday, the general public can see Chowaden from the Chumon Gate. At this time, His Majesty the Emperor stands on the central balcony of Chowaden with Her Majesty the Empress and other members of the imperial family, receives blessings from the people gathered, and gives a speech.


Minami Damari

The 528-square-meter Minami-tame is decorated with high-quality materials such as black granite from Yamaguchi Prefecture, Hyuga pine from Miyazaki Prefecture, and Katsuren marble from Okinawa Prefecture, giving it an outstanding sense of luxury. There is a huge chandelier weighing 2.3 tons on the ceiling, and the crystal glass shines beautifully.


Between the waves (Nami-no-ma)

Nami no Ma is a 248 square meter room made of Ichifusa cedar from Kumamoto Prefecture and pine from Shizuoka Prefecture. On the wall is a large mural by Kaii Higashiyama, ``Tide of Dawn,'' which expresses the natural beauty of Qingmi Island.



The 74-meter-long corridor is the passageway used to move around the palace, and is particularly important during state visits. The walls are decorated with paintings themed around the four seasons, captivating visitors.


Chigusa/Chidori no Ma

This room is usually used as one, and is made of pine from Kanagawa Prefecture and Kasuga cedar from Nara Prefecture. The curved ceiling design is particularly distinctive, creating a space where Japanese craftsmanship shines through.



Kitadame is 375 square meters in size and is a space used by important domestic and foreign dignitaries to greet His Majesty the Emperor. The walls are decorated with cloisonné ware that imitates Shosoin treasures, conveying the traditional beauty of Japan.


Stone bridge room

The stone bridge room is 245 square meters in area and is made of Ichifusa cedar from Kumamoto Prefecture and Hyuga pine from Miyazaki Prefecture. On the wall of this room, the murals ``Ishibashi,'' ``White Peonies,'' and ``Red Peonies'' by Seison Maeda are hung, and they fascinate visitors as works that symbolize the nature and beauty of Japan.


Spring and Autumn (Shunju-no-ma)

The Spring and Autumn Room is the second largest room in the palace, with an area of 608 square meters. On the walls of this hall, there are tapestry murals entitled ``Kiyomitsu'' and ``Jakumitsu,'' depicting scenes of spring and autumn, respectively. The floor is carpeted in the shape of a cloud, adding a rich cultural touch to the entire space.



Toyomeiden is the largest room in the palace, measuring 915 square meters. The room's name comes from an ancient feast, and the walls are covered with Gakuryo Nakamura's tapestry ``Toyohata Cloud'', and the floor is carpeted with a ``grass'' design by Yasaku Sugiyama.



Rensui is a 371 square meter room with a partition wall that can be divided into two rooms depending on the purpose. It is characterized by a checkered pattern of fusuma sliding doors modeled after the Shokin-tei in the Katsura Imperial Villa, creating a space that conveys Japanese beauty to the present day.



Take no Ma is a 182 square meter room made entirely of Kiso cypress, and the walls are decorated with bamboo-patterned fabric. Additionally, the interior is decorated with ``Bamboo'' by Heihachiro Fukuda and ``Ryokuchi Gold Brocade Hand Decorated Vase'' by Moe Kato Haji.


Matsuno-ma (Matsuno-ma)

The Matsu no Ma is a room with an area of 370 square meters that is used for important ceremonies by the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The floor is made of zelkova wood and the walls are decorated with a wakamatsu pattern, creating a prestigious space.


Plum Room (Umenoma)

The Plum Room is a 152 square meter room decorated with ``Red and White Plums'' by Gakuryo Nakamura. The door handle pedestal is decorated with mother-of-pearl, giving a delicate beauty to the entire room.

*Source: Imperial Household Agency homepage(https://www.kunaicho.go.jp/about/shisetsu/kokyo/kyuden-ph.html)




5. Imperial Palace events and festivals

The events and festivals held at the Imperial Palace provide a valuable opportunity to experience Japanese tradition and culture. Every year, many official ceremonies and cultural events take place inside and outside the Imperial Palace, attracting many visitors from Japan and abroad.

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New Year's general visit
The New Year's General Visit, held on January 2nd every year, is an event where ordinary people gather at the Imperial Palace to send New Year's greetings to His Majesty the Emperor. On this day, His Majesty the Emperor and members of his imperial family appear on the balcony of the Imperial Palace and address the assembled crowd. This scenery has been broadcast on Japanese television and is familiar to many people.

General visit on the Emperor's birthday
On February 23rd, the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor, many people will once again visit the Imperial Palace. On this day as well, His Majesty the Emperor appears on the balcony of the Imperial Palace along with his members of the imperial family and greets visitors. This is an important event that is covered not only in Japan but also in international media.

Opening of the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
he East Gardens of the Imperial Palace is open to the public all year round, and here you can see the remains of the former Edo Castle. Especially during the cherry blossom season, many people come to see the cherry blossoms and enjoy the arrival of spring. In addition, you can admire the beauty of the autumn leaves in autumn, and enjoy the beauty of nature throughout the year.




6.  Access to the Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is located in the heart of Tokyo and can be easily visited using many public transportation options.

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Access by train
The most convenient way to get there is by train. The nearest station to the Imperial Palace is Nijubashi-mae Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, about a 3-minute walk from the exit. It is also about a 15-minute walk from JR Tokyo Station, and can be accessed from multiple lines.

Access by car
Although it is possible to visit by car, the use of public transportation is recommended as traffic around the Imperial Palace is generally congested. If you are driving, it is common to use a nearby coin parking lot, but it is expected to be crowded, especially on weekends and during events, so it is best to arrive with plenty of time to spare.

Other information
If you are traveling by bicycle or motorbike, there is a bicycle parking lot nearby, but please note that this can also be very crowded. Additionally, the area around the Imperial Palace is often used by pedestrians such as the Imperial Palace Runner, so it is a good idea to take this into consideration when accessing the area.





Visiting the Imperial Palace is more than just a tourist experience. It provides an opportunity to experience Japan's history, culture, and natural beauty, and to understand the role of the Emperor in modern Japan. Each spot in the Imperial Palace, its history, and the ceremonies and events that take place form the core of Japan's identity.

What each visitor learns and feels from the Imperial Palace may be different, but the rich history, rich nature, and tranquil atmosphere of this place are valuable things that everyone should keep in mind. The Imperial Palace will continue to convey its value to many people as a place where the past and present come together.

When visiting the Imperial Palace, remember that every moment is meaningful and enjoy the unique experience this historic place has to offer. I hope that you will be able to take back a lot of learning and inspiration from this place, which can be called the heart of Japan.