This site was first a shogun residence, then the home for Japan’s emperor. Destroyed in World War II, it was reconstructed to its original splendor.
Tokyo Imperial Palace remains the primary residence of Japan’s Imperial Family. Much like residences for heads of state around the world, the palace buildings and inner gardens are not open to the public. However, twice a year (December 23 and January 2), you can enter the inner palace gardens to see the Imperial Family waving from a balcony.
The ancient name for Tokyo was Edo. From the 1600s to 1867, shoguns ruling Edo occupied this site in central Tokyo, living in Edo Castle. In 1868, when the shogunate was displaced, Japan moved its capital from Kyoto to Tokyo and occupied the Edo Castle site. After fire destroyed much of the complex, they built a new imperial palace in 1888.
Take note of the stone walls and towers and the Nijubashi bridges crossing the moat from outer to inner palace grounds. They are reminiscent of structures on the site hundreds of years ago when moats and ramparts served a critical protective function.
To the east of the residence is the Imperial Palace East Garden, which is open to the public daily, except Mondays and Fridays. The venue offers peaceful green spaces and ponds with a landscaped Japanese garden. Relics from early castle walls are visible. Nearby are the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, the MOMAT Kogeikan Crafts Gallery and the Science Museum.
Just north of the palace is Kitanomaru Park, a public area that is the site of Nippon Budokan Hall. The Budokan is a world famous martial arts, wrestling and music performance center that has hosted international stars from The Beatles to Taylor Swift. The Yasukuni Shrine is a short walk northwest.
The palace is located in the center of Tokyo on a 1.3-square mile (3.4-square kilometer) site. It is just a few minutes from Tokyo station. Otemachi station is the closest to the East Garden and Kudanshita is closest to Budokan.