Written by Ilham Rio Baramika
Walking Through History at The Imperial Palace East Gardens
This article presents the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, a beautiful place in the heart of Tokyo that breaths with history and offers a picturesque landscape.
One of the most well-known gardens in Tokyo is the Imperial Palace East Garden (Kōkyo Higashi Gyoen 皇居東御苑). Located in the heart of Tokyo city, this public garden covers an area of about 210.000 square meters. It takes only ten minutes walk from Tokyo station to reach one of its entrance gates, the Ōte-mon gate (大手門). There are two other gates you can use to enter the Imperial Palace Garden - Hirakawa-mon gate (平川門) and Kitahanebashi-mon gate (北桔橋門).
Discover the Imperial Palace Garden for Free
It is true that most of the area within the Tokyo Imperial Palace is not available for public use, but you can still enjoy a relaxing time inside the most noble area in Japan by visiting the East Gardens of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Moreover, the entrance is free, so anyone can enjoy this beautiful garden located in the inner part of the imperial family's residence area.
Honmaru Area - Walking Through History
The experience you gain from visiting Imperial Palace East Garden is not limited to common activities such as having enjoyable time by walking around the garden, taking as many photos as you want using the picturesque landscape as your backdrop, or setting up a picnic with your beloved ones. You can also learn about the history of Japan around the Honmaru area. Honmaru 本丸 was once initially a palace complex that covered more than 114,000 square meters, consisting of the Corner Tower (Sumi-yagura) and Hall Turret (Tamon-yagura). Unfortunately, in 1683 it was destroyed in a fire that wiped out most of the inner circle area of the palace, which was never reconstructed afterwards.
There are plenty of remaining historical sites situated around the main area (Honmaru) of the Palace Garden. Some of the Imperial Palace old guard house called Hyakunin bansho 百人番所, still stand strong nearby the main entrance of Honmaru area, silently guarding the remaining pieces of the long history of the palace.
Tenshudai Donjon Base
The most well-known historical site inside the Honmaru area is the Tenshudai Donjon Base 天守台. It is the remaining foundation of the former Edo Castle's main tower building, from where the Tokugawa shogunate ruled the country. It was once the tallest castle tower ever recorded in the history of Japan, until a wide fire incident destroyed most of the main building in 1657.
Most of the area destroyed by the wide fire incident around the Tenshudai has been turned into an open space field garden. It is very suitable place for having a picnic under the blue sky on a sunny day.
Ninomaru Area - A Traditional Japanese Garden
The outer circle area around the main castle tower which was once the defense area of the former castle has been renovated into a beautiful Japanese traditional garden. As various types of seasonal vegetation grow here, this gardens leaves a different impression depending on the season.
Bairinzaka plum slope
The slope connects the upper area of Honmaru with the outer area of Ninomaru. There are 50 different species of plum trees along the slope of Bairinzaka 梅林坂 ("the hill of the plum trees"), which bloom beautifully in the first days of spring. You can enjoy the beauty of this slope while heading down slowly to Ninomaru garden.
Ninomaru Iris Garden
The Ninomaru Iris Garden was designed based on the model of the 18th century Imperial Palace Garden. It has been built as a tribute to Kobori Enshū 小堀遠州, a famous Japanese aristocrat and artist of the Edo Period. 84 species of iris flowers are carefully planted around the garden for the visitors to enjoy. You can check the seasonal bloom on the flower calendar section of the Imperial Household Agency's official website.
There is a beautiful Japanese pond within Ninomaru garden area. The pond itself is still in its original position from the 18th century.
The best spot to view the pond is under this little traditional hut, placed right beside the pond. Here you can refresh your mind and relax for a while, detaching yourself from the metropolis and emerging yourself in the serene atmosphere around the pond.
The Rest Area
The Imperial Palace Garden covers a wide area, and you might get tired if you force yourself to walk it in one go. In case you might want to take a rest for a while, the rest house area is the place to go.
In the Rest Area you can find a useful hand map and pamphlets containing various information about all the sites inside the East Gardens of The Imperial Palace. Even better, the pamphlet is available in four different languages (English, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin).
If you get tired of the overcrowded streets in Tokyo and would like to enjoy relaxing time in a peaceful place that is located not far away from the center of the city, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace are the perfect place to go.
Address: Tokyo, Chiyoda-ku, Chiyoda 1-1
From March 1st to April 14th - 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (entry up to 4:00 p.m.)
From April 15th to August 31st - 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (entry up to 4:30 p.m.)
From September 1st to October 31st - 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
From November 1st to the end of February - 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (entry up to 3:30 p.m.)
Nearest station: Ōtemachi station 大手町駅 (from each subway line)
Access: 5 minutes walk from Ōtemachi station exit number C13; a 15 minutes walk from Tokyo Station
Available Languages: Homepage available in English
Price range: Free
Official Website: The Imperial Household Agency