Tokyo in Pics
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The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

Once a part of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo the East Gardens are now open to the public.  See some pictures of this fabulous place here.

Almost in the very middle of Tokyo is a great urban oasis, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace.   Of course, it gets its name from being next door to the Imperial Palace.  And it is an oasis because it is close to the Marunouchi area and Tokyo station – the heart of corporate Japan.  The gardens are a great place to visit not only because they are beautiful, but they have some great views and some great history!

Some of the Maruchouchi's skyscrapers seen from one of the hills in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

The garden, which used to be a part of the Imperial palace, is now divided into three parts.  The front section, if you are coming from Tokyo station, contains the Museum of the Imperial Collections, a kiosk and three of the remaining guardhouses that were used when the shoguns were in power.  The museum is quite small, just one room, but houses some good displays that change on a regular basis.  You probably won't spend much time in this area, just a few photos and then up to the main part of the garden, the lawn and ruins of the donjon.

It's spring and the flowers are out, plus the base of Edo castle's tower can be seen in the background

Go past the guardhouses and up the hill, you’ll find yourself in the second area, the lawn, which contains the ruins of the donjon.  I love this place due to it being very spacious.  If you walk to the top of the donjon you can also enjoy some amazing views of the Marunouchi district's skyscrapers popping up over the trees, while not the same, reminds me of the view from the English Tradiation Garden at Shinjuku Gyoen.  With the colourful Tokagakudo concert hall there as well, the whole area is great photos.  During the warmer months you’ll always find people there relaxing on the grass.

The 100-man guard house

The last section is the Ninomaru.  It holds a beautiful garden, pond and trees from Japan's prefectures (all of them I believe).  There you can find the Suwana-no-chaya, a beautiful old teahouse which you cannot enter unfortunately.  This area is great because it is at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by walls and trees giving it a secluded feeling.  This area is where the real garden is.  When flowers are in bloom here it attracts a lot of photographers.

Flowers in the Ninomaru

History occupies a large part of the East Gardens.  Just walk in and you'll be surrounded by it.  The walls you see on the way in are huge because they once needed to be, as they were an integral part of a real castle that was home to a shogun who needed a symbol of his power.  Most importantly, you can also see the site of the Matsu-no-Oroka, a huge corridor.  It was here that the daimyo Asano attacked Kira Yoshinaka in 1701 which began the 47 Ronin story.  The corridor doesn't exist anymore, but you can find a marker and plaque which gives the basic story.

The marker where the Matsu-no-roka (Great Pine Hall) once stood.  This is where the events of the 47 Ronin story started

The gardens are extremely beautiful and if you are ever in the area near Tokyo station, Marunouchi or the Imperial Palace a visit is highly recommended.  The Imperial Household Agency is responsible for the gardens and you can find its website here.

How to get to the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

You can't enter the East Gardens from the palace, but there are three other gates through which you can enter through:  Ote (the closest to Tokyo station), Hirakawa and Kitahanebashi.  Here is a Google map to help you:

 

Opening times

The opening and closing times vary season to season:

From March 1 to April 14
9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (entry up to 4:00 p.m.)

From April 15 to the end of August
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (entry up to 4:30 p.m.)

From September 1 to the end of October
9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (entry up to 4:00 p.m.)

From November 1 to the end of February
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (entry up to 3:30 p.m.)

It is also closed:

1)  Every Monday and Friday (open on National Holidays except the Emperor's Birthday, December 23);

2)  If a national holiday falls on a Monday, the Garden will be closed on the Tuesday immediately following the National Holiday;

3)  Over the New Year period, from December 28 to January 3, and;

4)  when it is deemed necessary to close the Garden due to Imperial Court functions.

Admission costs

None, but upon entry you are given a plastic tab that you hand back when you leave.


If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy:

Bunkyo Civic Center - a slightly different type of observatory but it still has some great views!

Kyu-Furukawa Gardens -  a little piece of English in Tokyo

Musashi Imperial Graveyard - resting place of the Taisho and Showa Emperors

Shinjuku Gyoen – probably the most famous park in Tokyo

Tokorozawa Aviation Museum - learn a little of the history of flight in Japan