Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tokyo's Imperial Palace

On our last full day in Japan, Andrew and I decided to brave the JR Yamanote line that loops in a full circle around Tokyo to visit the Imperial Palace, home to Japan's imperial family.

It's a quick walk from the Tokyo train station, one minute, you're surround by skyscrapers and the next, you're walking into this huge open space of land. Here, Andrew shows you how wide the outer moat is:

Passing by the outer moat, we approached the outer edge of the imperial palace. Most of the palace and its inner gardens are off limits to the public except for two days - December 23 (the Emperor's Birthday) and January 2 (for a New Year's greeting). There is a small portion of the gardens open to the public year-round, but to our dismay, we found that you had to reserve a tour online at least two days in advance (doh!)

Despite being stuck to the perimeter of the palace, it offered a nice park setting surrounded by the Tokyo skyline - it reminded me of Central Park:

Here Andrew poses by the inner moat surrounding the palace:

My turn at the fence and if you look behind me, you can see "Nijubashi" bridge:
It was a pretty tranquil setting, with swans peacefully swimming in the moats:

This is the stone bridge "Meganebashi" (Eyeglass bridge) that also leads to the inner gardens - the guards looked rather fierce and reminded me of the British royal guards that aren't allowed to crack a smile:
From one section of the grounds, you can see both bridges and the private residences of the family:
Andrew and I had a great time walking around, even if we couldn't see the inner part of the palace. While on our way into the imperial palace, we walked all along the gravel portions and on our way out, we took the paved path - we think they do this to keep out cars and bicyclists.

One final picture with Tokyo Tower in the skyline, and it was time for us to find a place to eat in Harajuku, our next stop on the JR train line.

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