Tokyo Imperial Palace

Tokyo Imperial Palace

Travel Guide


Tokyo Imperial Palace is the residence of the present Emperor of Japan and his wife. It is a large park-like area located in the Chiyoda area of Tokyo close to Tokyo Station and contains several buildings including the main palace, the private residences of the imperial family, an archive, museum and administrative offices. Surrounded are moats and massive stone walls.

It is built on the site of the old Edo castle. The total area including the gardens is 3.41 square kilometres (1.32 sq mi). During the height of the 1980s Japanese property bubble, the palace grounds were valued by some as more than the value of all the real estate in the state of California.

From Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the Imperial Palace, visitors can view the Nijubashi, two bridges that form an entrance to the inner palace grounds. The stone bridge in front is called Meganebashi (Eyeglass Bridge) for its looks. The bridge in the back was formerly a wooden bridge with two levels, from which the name Nijubashi (Double Bridge) is derived.

Except for Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Palace East Gardens, the palace is generally closed to the public. Each New Year (January 2) and Emperor's Birthday, the public is permitted to enter through the Nakamon (inner gate) where they gather in the Kyuden Totei Plaza in front of the Chowaden Hall. The imperial family appears on the balcony before the crowd and the emperor normally gives a short speech greeting and thanking the visitors and wishing them good health and blessings.

Gate - Tokyo Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace East Gardens

The Imperial Palace East Gardens are a part of the inner palace area. The garden has especially beautiful plantings of sakura cherry trees, azaleas and irises.

It is situated on the eastern side of the palace and covers an area of 210,000 sqm. They are the former site of Edo Castle's innermost circles of defense, the honmaru ("main circle") and ninomaru ("secondary circle"). None of the main buildings remain today, but the moats, walls, entrance gates and several guardhouses still exist.

A wide lawn and the remaining foundation of the former castle tower can be found on top of the hill, where the castle's innermost buildings once stood. The castle tower was completed in 1638 as the tallest castle tower in Japan's history. But only a few years later in 1657, it was destroyed by citywide fires and has not been rebuilt ever since. The huge stone foundations of the castle tower are a wonder to behold and really give you a sense of the immense power wielded by the Tokugawa shogunate.

In place of the former buildings in the secondary circle of defense (ninomaru) at the foot of the hill, a nice Japanese style garden has been created.

The Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public throughout the year except on Mondays, Fridays and special occasions.

Visitors can enter through any one of three gates: Otemon, Hirakawamon or Kitahanebashimon. We recommend Otemon gate, which is a short walk from Otemachi or Tokyo Station. At Otemon gate, you will find a museum containing some of the Imperial Treasures.

Ninomaru Garden - Tokyo Imperial Palace

The center of Tokyo

Even with Japan's change to a democracy and the decline in the power of the Emperor, Tokyo Imperial Palace has remained at the center of Tokyo with focus of the modern political power, the National Diet building, the Prime Ministers Offices and most of the government building just to the south over Sakurada moat. Then much of Tokyo's financial power is located just to the west of Tokyo Imperial Palace with many of Japan's major companies having their head offices there and it is not far to Tokyo Stock Exchange. Just to the west of Tokyo Imperial Palace, is Tokyo Station, the center of Japan's train network.

Meganebashi - Tokyo Imperial Palace


Edo Castle used to be the seat of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 until 1867. After the capitulation of the Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, the inhabitants, including the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, were required to vacate the premises of the Edo Castle. Leaving Kyoto Imperial Palace, on 26 November 1868 the emperor arrived at Edo castle, made it to his new residence and renamed it to Tokei Castle.

At this time Tokyo had also been called Tokei. He left for Kyoto again, and after coming back on 9 May 1869 it was renamed to Imperial Castle.

In 1888 construction of a new Imperial Palace was completed. From 1888 to 1948, the compound was called Palace Castle. The palace was once destroyed during World War II, and rebuilt in the same style, afterwards. Emperor Showa (Hirohito) declared the capitulation of Japan from the basement of the concrete library on 15 August 1945, ending World War II. The area was renamed Imperial Residence in 1948 while the eastern part was renamed East Garden and became a public park in 1968.


Travel Advice

Guided tours

Guided tours of the palace grounds are offered by the Imperial Household Agency, although no buildings are entered. The tours are held in Japanese, and an English pamphlet and audio guide are provided. The tours must be reserved in advance through the Application Form of Imperial Household Agency.

Imperial Palace Tokyo Secrets

In 1868, when the Shoguns lost their power, the palace became the official residence of the new Emperor Meiji. The Emperor relocated the capital from Kyoto to Edo, and renamed Edo to the present day name Tokyo.

The Tokyo Palace was destroyed by bombings during World War II. It was rebuilt in the same style in 1968. So what you see today is relatively new, but looks so traditional Japanese…

Emperors have ruled over Japan for more than 1,500 years, and they all came from the same family. The power of the emperors was limited or purely symbolic throughout most of Japan’s history. The shoguns were the ones who actually ruled Japan.

After World War II Japanese people accepted the constitution of 1946 that states that the emperor has only a symbolic function. These days he mainly participates in ceremonies and diplomatic meetings, but has no real political power. He is however a very strong spiritual leader for the Japanese people.

Running rings around the Tokyo Imperial Palace

You may have noticed streams of runners zipping around the Imperial Palace lately. The path right in the city center has become one of the most popular and attractive places to go jogging in Tokyo.

The unofficial 'course' follows the path skirting the parameters of the Palace (you don't actually go into the grounds), along the way encountering the National Museum of Modern Art, the British Embassy and a distant Tokyo Tower. It's also lined with bushes and the spacious moat, meaning you can almost forget the cars on the other side.

To encourage you along the circuit there are even markers on the paving representing each of Japan's prefectures, so you feel like you're racing the length of the country.

Why is it so popular? It's green, safe even at night (there are lots of police, of course), and no doubt its popularity is self-inducing -- people come to the Palace to run with other people, novices and marathon veterans alike. The whole loop is an exact five kilometers, which makes keeping track simple.

What's more, this being Japan, convenience is paramount. On top of the toilets, water fountains and vending machines along the route, changing room facilities have sprung up in Jinbocho and Koujimachi so office workers can go for a jog before work or during their lunch break.

The weekend, however, is still when the circuit is most crowded, and etiquette and the size of the path demands you run in single file in a counter-clockwise direction. But here's a tip: Go in the evening or at night when there's far less people, and you can run clockwise, awarding you a great heads-on view of Tokyo Tower.

The name of Chiyoda

The Tokyo Imperial Palace is located in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. Chiyoda inherited the name, literally meaning "field of a thousand generations", from Chiyoda Castle (the other name of Edo Castle).



Address 1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Phone 03-3213-1111
Admission Free  
Hours Free time  
Closed Open 7 Days a Week
Duration 15 minutes
Getting There By Train
To Sakashita Mon
15 minutes walk from Nijubashi Station on subway Chiyoda Line or subway Mita Line.
20 minutes walk from Tokyo Station on JR Lines.

To Kikyom Mon
10 minutes walk from Nijubashi Station on subway Chiyoda Line or subway Mita Line.
15 minutes walk from Tokyo Station on JR Lines.

To Ote Mon
10 minutes walk from Nijubashi Station on subway Chiyoda Line.
15 minutes walk from Tokyo Station on JR Lines.

To Hirakawa Mon
5 minutes walk from Takebashi Station on subway Tozai Line.

To Kitahanebashi Mon
5 minutes walk from Takebashi Station on subway Tozai Line.
Parking No parking available

Attractions in Japan