Imperial Palace picture
Marc Buehler/Flickr

Key Info

Chiyoda-ku

Price & Hours

Free
East Gardens: 9 a.m.-4 or 5 p.m. daily

Details

Castles/Palaces, Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.3scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

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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