Inside the Imperial Palace in 2017 - a walk along Inui street
Every year the Imperial Palace, near Tokyo station, in Chiyoda ward, opens the Sakashita gate and allows the public to walk along Inui-dori (Inui street) to enjoy the autumn leaves. It is a great public relations exercise for the palace and I for one am glad to attend. This year, I went on a weekday morning and enjoyed my walk immensely as it was relatively uncrowded. On weekends the experience is very different as there are so many people that walking space is often reduced to a crawl.
The walk is straight forward, enter through the gate and just follow the crowd, which when I went, consisted of mostly middle-aged and older people. Take pictures and enjoy the trees along the 750-meter route. As well as the crowd you’ll see lots of police there who will urge everyone to take just one picture and move along. There announcements are almost non-stop!
It is a very easy walk as Inui-dori is flat. The only hill, a very gentle one at that, is the gate where you enter. Once up that hill walk past the Imperial Household Agency building and you’ll Inui-dori. The road has a moat on the right and a wall on the left that has a few gates and roads through it. Of course, every other road in the palace will be blocked off. When you want to leave you can do so via one of two exits. One is the Inui gate and the other is over a bridge and through the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.
If you are a fan of Japanese history or the Imperial family I would strongly recommend this walk. You won’t see any of the royals while you are there, but can at least get inside the palace walls and see some of what they see. Just inside the gate where you enter look to your left and you’ll see the Chowaden Reception Hall which is the largest building on the palace grounds. The hall is where some official state ceremonies and functions are held. For example, on December 23 (the Emperor’s birthday) and January 2 (greetings for the New Year), the Emperor and selected members of his family appear before the public and he makes a short speech. The Imperial Household Agency building can be found nearby.
But what I really enjoy is the chance to see some of the historical buildings from the inside of the palace grounds. For example, if you ever visit the palace from the Tokyo station side, one of the prominent buildings is Fujimi keep (not to be confused with Tatsumi keep which is very close to the road but at a much lower elevation). From inside the palace and on Inui-dori you’ll see it from a different angle, with some of the Marunouchi skyscrapers behind it. It looks pretty dramatic on a fine day. The other is Fujimi Tamon, another keep, situated on a wall over the moat along Inui-dori. While those would be the main two, there are also some other lesser known buildings along the road as well.