Imperial Palace, home to the world’s oldest continuous monarchy.

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Thousands of years have gone by and a multitude of changes happened in the realm of existence.  We’ve seen the critical formative influences that defined cultures… and the forces that tried to re-define cultures. We’ve seen the rise and fall of empires… and monarchies.  We’ve seen ancient existence survived, progressed… and ultimately integrated with the modern world.

Over the centuries, Japan has remarkably evolved… from the simple life of growing rice, to forming small tribal communities or clans, to feudalism, to the shogunate period, to becoming a highly industrialized nation in modern times.  Spiritual, radical and revolutionary movements generated changes in its social structure… but there was one thing which remained unchanged – Japan’s imperial family was never overthrown! When the shoguns gained the absolute control to rule, the imperial family remained the symbol of the state and the emperor had the power to legitimize their rank as shoguns.

Japan has the most ancient ruling house in the world…as ancient as the start of its civilization. Mythology implies that the sun goddess Amaterasu descended to earth around seventh century B.C. and a descendant named Jimmu was enthroned as the first emperor of Japan in 660 B.C. He was the founder of the imperial family, the Yamato, whose lineage has continued to rule Japan uninterruptedly up to this day.

The reigning Emperor Akihito, the direct descendant of the legendary Jimmu,  became Japan’s 125th Emperor in 1989.  He is the only Japanese Emperor who married somebody who did not come from nobility, breaking the old tradition. Empress Michiko Shōda is the first commoner to marry into the Imperial Family. She’s the daughter of of the president and later honorary chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Company.

The Imperial Palace or Kokyo, which is on the original grounds of the Edo Castle, is the main residence of the imperial family. Tokugawa Ieyasu had chosen this site for his headquarters and its construction was completed in 1640. This became the residential palace of the Tokugawa shoguns. After the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate, Emperor Meiji held the sovereign power. He left the old imperial palace in Kyoto and established residence at the Edo Castle In 1868. The palace was reconstructed and a new Imperial Palace was completed In 1888. The palace underwent reconstruction after it was destroyed  during the World War II air raids.

This is the Fushimi Tower, one of the few original buildings of the palace. 

Vestiges of history with verdant oasis in sharp contrast against the immense glass and concrete of a megalopolis! Surrounded by stone walls and moats with lovely swans, the Imperial Palace is located in the middle of Tokyo, just a short distance from Tokyo Station. Around it are Japan’s main business districts of Marunouchi and Nihombashi as well as the elegant Ginza shopping district. As April begins, the Chidori-ga-fuchi Park near the East Garden attracts the biggest crowd to view the splendid cherry blossoms. P1120824

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The outer palace grounds, Kita-no-maru-koen Park and East Gardens are all open to the public free of charge but the inner grounds are off limits and are open to the public only twice a year – during the emperor’s birth anniversary and the imperial family’s January 2 New Year greetings. P1120837

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All visitors during the emperor’s birth anniversary should write their greetings together with their respective countries of origin. The imperial family make a brief public appearance on the balcony only during this occasion and January 2. P1120840

The 284-acre palace grounds have museums, gardens, park, administrative offices, and the private residence of the present imperial family. The East Gardens of the palace show the remains of the once massive castle which was the residence of Tokugawa Shogun (1603-1868) and later of Emperor Meiji (1868-1888).  P1120857

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Guardhouses from the original Edo Castle.

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There are tours from Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 1.30 pm, except on public holidays. To know more about the Imperial Palace tour and make reservations in advance, please visit this website :

http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/guide/koukyo.html

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11 Comments on “Imperial Palace, home to the world’s oldest continuous monarchy.

  1. You’ve done some remarkable things with colors and reflected light here. I especially like the pic of the swan (?) and the one right above it. 🙂

    • A chance to savor that magical light! Being in a stunning location very rich in history is one of the high points of travel… and oh, that lovely swan definitely caught the attention of the photographers outside the Imperial Palace. Thank you very much!

  2. What a beautiful reducing of Japan. Amazing photos as well. It is nice to meet another traveler with such passion.

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