Tokyo in Pics

Imperial Palace

Tokyo's Imperial Palace is a great place to visit.  You probably won't see the Emperor but you will get some great pics! Here are mine for you.

When the shoguns ruled Japan, the seat of their power was Edo castle. They  are now long gone, but the castle remains and is now known as Imperial Palace, due to it being the residence of the Emperor.  If you ever visit Tokyo, you can go there to get some great photos.  I highly recommend it.  Just don’t count on getting a picture of the Emperor while you are there though!

The Sakurada Gate with the Marunouchi district behind it

Let’s just get the Emperor out of the way first! The only time I know you can see him is on January 2 (his New Year Greetings).  On that day one of the gates will be opened and you can get inside to see him on the balcony of Chowaden Hall, and listen to him give a few words.  That is the only regular time I know when he appears.

Seimon Ishibashi also known as Nijubashi and even Meganebashi (Eyeglasses bridge) with Fushimi keep in the background

Now, let’s get into photography. The Imperial Palace has everything a Tokyo-loving photographer could want:  huge moats, cherry blossoms (in spring), several keeps, enormous walls, moats, bridges and an impressive city landscape nearby.  There are also a few buildings that you can see inside, one of which is the Imperial Household Agency, but other than that not many.  I think that is pretty good though, isn’t it?  Also, the contrast between the castle and nearby modern, urban city of the Marunouchi area is very impressive.

Tatsumi Keep (in the foreground) with the Kikyo gate behind, and Fujimi Keep in the rear

If I had to pick my favourite places for photographs there, I would pick three.  The first is just outside the Sakurada gate on that bridge looking over the moat up the hill towards the Diet building which is very nice, especially in the early morning.  For the next shot walk up the hill a little towards the Diet building but not too far.  Look back and you can get a shot of the moat, the gate and Marunouchi skyscrapers beyond.  My last is at Main gate which is close to the Sakurada gate.  There, you can usually get pictures of the two Imperial guards on duty, Meganebashi ((Eye) Glasses bridge) in foreground with Niju Bridge and Fushimi Keep in the background.  As a matter of fact, this is the place where the majority of tourists go so it can be hard getting nice pictures sometimes.

The Imperial Household Agency Building seen from across the moat, near the Sakashita Gate

The one thing that some people won't like about the palace is that most of the interesting places are on the Tokyo station side.  If you intend to do a full circuit, just be prepared that some areas have nothing of interest there.  And the other thing that isn't so good is that in the warmer months, the moat will be filled with algae, making it all green, which doesn't look so nice.

Tatsumi Keep with the Palace Hotel Tokyo, just over the road

If you decide to do the full walk, be on the watch out for joggers, as the palace is an extremely popular running spot.  Every day there is a constant stream of joggers making there way around the walls, and the numbers get higher on weekends.  Please be aware that if you decide to join them, you are required to run the palace in a counterclockwise direction. If you want to get inside the palace, you could do a tour which the Imperial Household Agency runs, click here to read about it.

The Sakashita Gate at sunset

Lastly, make sure you visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace as they are next door!  The gardens there are very beautiful and has a lot of other stuff inside to see as well.  To find out more you can read my article about them here.

You can even squeeze in a shot of Tokyo Tower from the Imperial Palace, pardon the pun!

The Imperial Household Agency is responsible for the palace and you can see its website here.

How to get to the Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is very easy to get to. There are several train and subway stations near it within easy walking distance, some closer than others though.  Here is a Google map:

Quite often, as you walk around the palace, you’ll see work crews keeping everything clean or doing basic maintenance

Opening hours

The outside areas of the Imperial Palace are open twenty four hours a day.  However, when there are special events at the palace some of the surrounding roads and areas will be blocked off.

Admission costs


The Marunouchi skyscrapers soar over anything in the Imperial Palace!

How long does it take to walk around the Imperial Palace?

At a leisurely walking pace it will take you slightly more than one hour to walk around the palace, provided you don't stop for pictures.  So, if you are limited for time however, it would be best to stay on the Marunouchi side as most of the main gates and visible buildings mentioned in this article are there.  And also remember you might want to take a detour into the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace as they are really worth seeing.

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