Tucked away behind moats and thick stone walls, the residence and offices of the Emperor of Japan occupy an enviable spot in central Tokyo.
The Imperial Palace moved to Tokyo in 1868
Hour-long tours of the palace run daily at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The palace is located in central Tokyo and is easily accessible from Nijubashimae Station or Otemachi Station.
Visitors who wish to see the entrance to the palace should head towards the Sakashita-mon Gate, which is a 15-minute walk from Nijubashimae Station or Otemachi Station. You can also walk there from Tokyo Station's Marunouchi exit in 20 minutes.
If you plan on joining the Imperial Palace tour, meet your guide at the Kikyo-mon Gate, a 10-minute walk from Nijubashimae Station or Otemachi Station.
For thousands of years Kyoto was the capital of Japan, but in 1868 both the capital and Imperial Palace were moved to Tokyo after the Meiji Restoration. This has been the home of the Emperor and his family ever since.
The innermost grounds of the palace are generally not open to the public with the exception of guided tours and special holidays. For a quick peek, make your way to the Outer Gardens, where you can see the double Nijubashi bridge, which leads to the stately entrance of the inner palace.
Tours run twice each day except on Sundays, Mondays and public holidays. Reservations are recommended, and can be made through the Imperial Household Agency's website. Although the tours are usually offered in Japanese only, pamphlets in English are available. Highlights of the tour include the chance to see the Kyuden, or main palace, and the Fujimi-yagura watchtower.
If you're planning a winter trip to Tokyo, be at the palace on January 2 for the New Year's greeting. On that special occasion, the palace gates are opened to visitors who can come in and marvel at the inner palace grounds and see the Imperial family greeting their subjects.