Imperial Palace#5 in Best Things To Do in Tokyo
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You'd think the Imperial Palace would be mobbed with tourists, but it's not. You can credit the lack of crowds to an application policy, which limits the number of visitors. That's because the Imperial Palace is home to the Emperor of Japan and the royal family. And before that, it was the residence for some of Japan's most important figures, including Emperor Meiji (credited for modernizing Japan) and rulers during the Edo Period (the time period before Japan was modernized by Meiji). Because of its significant importance in Japanese society, admittance to the site is hard to get (you have to put in your application several weeks in advance) and access inside the actual palace is even fewer and far between.
As such, most travelers suggest skipping the application entirely (those who went on the tour were disappointed with how little of the palace is open to visitors) and admiring the compound from afar. Visitors also say the East Gardens, which are part of the Imperial Palace complex, are much more of a sight to see. This flourishing green space has plenty of shady spots and open fields, perfect for relaxing. And during cherry blossom season, these gardens are a choice spot for locals looking to enjoy the seasonal foliage.
Visitors are free to explore the East Gardens anytime between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The park closes a half hour earlier during the winter and a half hour later during the summer. Tours of the palace are given at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and they usually last one hour and fifteen minutes. The closest metro station is Nijubashi-mae station. For more information and to apply for a visit, check out the Imperial Household Agency's website.
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#1 Tokyo National Museum
If you're looking to learn a little (or a lot) about Japan's history, the Tokyo National Museum is the place to go. This museum is one of the country's most expansive, housing about 116,000 pieces of art and artifacts that cover the longest recorded history of Japan. Strolling through the halls of its numerous buildings, you'll spot relics such as samurai armor and swords (a traveler favorite), delicate pottery, kimonos, calligraphy, paintings, and much more, some of which are designated as national treasures and Important Cultural Properties by the Japanese government. In addition to artifacts from Japan's history, you'll also find pieces from all across the Asian continent, including Buddhist scrolls that date all the way back to 607.
Travelers were impressed with all that the Tokyo National Museum has to offer. Even some who admitted they aren't museum people enjoyed the variety of unique artifacts on display. Travelers appreciated that the museum featured English translations, something that some visitors noticed other Tokyo top attractions lacked (think the Ghibli Museum). Museum goers also say that there so much to see in the Tokyo National Museum that you probably need an entire day if you want to get through everything. If you don't have enough time to do this (or just don't want to) the best thing to do is get a map of the museum beforehand and pick what you want to do before you venture in.
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