- The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
- Making your way through the gardens
- Making the most of your visit
- Much more to explore
The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
Don’t let the name fool you: the East Gardens were created in the 1960s right in the center of the remains of Edo Castle. To explore these gardens is to travel back to the late 16th century, when the Tokugawa shogunate was in the midst of launching its 260-year rule over a united Japan—what history would reveal to be Japan’s final feudal government.
Making your way through the gardens
Upon entering the East Gardens via one of three public gates, expect a brief and courteous bag check. After that you’ll be handed an entry pass (again, completely free) which you’ll need to return upon exiting the gardens.
After that, you are free to explore the expansive greenspace at your leisure. English guidance and signage is everywhere, so there’s no need to worry about language barriers. You can even download the official app for information in Chinese, French, Korean, and Spanish. Omotenashi (Japanese hospitality) is on full display here.
As you set out on your adventure through history, at the minimum, be on the lookout for the following:
- The three remaining guardhouses of Edo Castle
- The Fujimi-tamon defense house (you can actually go inside!)
- The Fujimi-yagura, a defense tower dating back to 1659
- Various flowers and trees from all over the country and the world
When it comes to exploring the gardens, you can use the app to ensure that you don’t miss a single feature. Highlights include an audio guide and an interactive map that will notify you when you are near a point of interest.
That being said, I found the on-site signage to be more than adequate in explaining everything I came across. It just felt wrong to burry my gaze into a smartphone screen instead of soaking in the stunning and tranquil environment that surrounded me. However, the app was useful for periodically checking to make sure I didn’t miss anything important (which is actually easy to do).
Making the most of your visit
The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace are surprisingly expansive. By the time you reach the center, it’s easy to forget that you are in the middle of the world’s largest urban area. Here are some quick tips to make the most of your time in the gardens:
Get off the beaten path. Now, this doesn’t mean straying into areas that are clearly marked off limits. What I do mean is that you’ll see a lot of narrow paths that lead away from the center of the gardens. Be sure to follow them as some of the most interesting structures and historical spots are not within plain sight.
Plan ahead. With 40 points of interest, exploring the gardens can be overwhelming. Take a look at the app beforehand and note what points are most interesting. You can even enter and exit the gardens via different gates, and you may want to do so if you are on a tight schedule.
Gain some altitude. Surprisingly, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace offer some amazing views. Keep an eye out for signs that indicate observation points and be sure to ascend the Tenshu-dai, the stone foundation of what was once Edo Castle’s main tower.
Much more to explore
This article only scratches the surface of what is perhaps the most historically significant place in Japan. Therefore, I encourage you to see the East Gardens for yourself and immerse yourself in its history.
Once you’ve seen the gardens, there’s still more to see and do. With a reservation you can continue your journey with a free guided tour of the palace grounds. If you happen to be in town for the New Year’s holidays, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of the Imperial Family. Or, if you just can’t get enough of the beautiful, traditional Japanese scenery, you can run (or walk) around the Imperial Palace grounds to your heart’s content. Whatever you decide to do, no trip to Japan is complete without a visit to this amazing historical site.
For smartphone users, please click the link below to go to the Tadaima Japan website which includes additional location details:
Explore Japan’s Living History in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
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