Going through Kokyo Gaien—the Outer Gardens—is an appropriately grand way to approach the Imperial Palace. The knotty black pine trees, imposing statue of samurai warrior Kusunoki Masahige and views of the famous Nijubashi Bridge are just a few highlights of the park's spacious grounds.
Kusunoki Masahige fought a battle he knew he would lose for Emperor Go-Daigo
There are 2,800 pine trees in the gardens
The Fountain Gardens have two fountains that were built to celebrate weddings
The Outer Gardens are quite vast and can be approached via train from several different points.
Nijubashimae Station is the closest to the most famous sights, an easy five-minute walk. Alternatively, the gardens are a 10-minute walk from Hibiya Station or a 15-minute walk from Tokyo Station's Marunouchi exit.
Encompassing the Imperial Palace Front Plaza, Kitanomaru Park and the Palace perimeter's 12 moats, this garden is incredibly vast. Fortunately, many of the top sights are clustered in the same general area. From the plaza you can get a perfect view of the Nijubashi double bridge with white Fushimi-yagura watchtower in the background.
There are several gates that date back to the Edo period throughout the grounds, but the most dramatic is Sakurada-mon, the largest of the remaining gates of what was Edo Castle.
While exploring, take a moment to check out the equestrian statue of Kusunoki Masahige, a 14th-century samurai legendary for his loyalty. You cannot help noticing the 2,800 pine trees around the gardens, which are perfectly manicured and look almost as architectural in nature as the skyscrapers in the distance.
Wadakura Fountain Park is a pleasant break from all the Edo architecture. The two fountains in the center were built to celebrate the wedding of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in 1961, and that of Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako in 1995. Take a walk over the arching wooden bridge that connects the park to the Otemachi area.