Around the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo is an abundance of
greenery. Several parks flow into each other to form an enormous green lung for
downtown Tokyo. The best vantage points for cherry blossom viewing and parties
are Chidorigafuchi Park (across from the British Embassy) and Kitanomaru Park.
Chidorigafuchi Park is a long narrow strip of greenery next to a very busy
road. The attraction, however, is to the other side: it borders the Imperial
Palace and has beautiful vistas of the moat and palace walls and fortifications.
In addition the park is about half a kilometer long and lined with cherry
At the north end of the park it automatically runs into what is popularly
knows as Cherry Blossom Avenue - a narrow road almost a kilometer long and lined
with cherry trees. You can either stroll along the road or on top of an
embankment for wonderful views of the moat and cherry trees, only occasionally
spoiled with views of the busy expressway to remind you that you are still in
the heart of the metropolis. This road slows down to a crawl in cherry blossom
season and it is ideal to take a taxi if you want to see how the fare increases
while the car is merely idling!
At the end of the avenue you would usually turn to your right into the East
Gardens of the Palace. However, during the cherry blossom season, if time is
limited, the better choice is Kitanomaru Park to your left. Kitanomaru Park is
usually not very spectacular although it is pleasant enough to stroll in and
there are a couple of museums as well as the Nippon Budokan Hall, venue for all
kind of events from rock concerts to martial art tournaments. In cherry blossom
season the park does come into its own though. The cherry trees are numerous and
several moats and surviving guardhouses and fortified gates enhance the views.
Amateur and professional photographers vie for the best positions in the most
scenic areas. This park is very close to the Marunouchi and Otemachi, the heart
of financial Tokyo, ensuring that the huge crowds during lunch hour and late
afternoon make for the best-dressed cherry blossom viewing parties in town.
Across the road from the Budokan are the massive grounds of the controversial
Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine grounds have beautiful trees and the official trees
to determine the state of bloom of cherry trees in Tokyo. (See separate journal
Chidorigafuchi Park is best reached from the Hanzomon Station and Kitanomaru
Park from the Kudanshita Station - both on the Hanzomon Subway line.
Results 1-10of 11 Reviews
by wasa girl
July 14, 2008
From journal Two Weeks in Japan
January 24, 2008
From journal Tokyo-a-go-go!
October 27, 2006
From journal So, What Else is in Tokyo Besides Disneyland?
February 24, 2006
Our main objective was the east gardens of the Imperial Palace, where most of my preconceptions about what a Japanese garden would look like were confirmed. Shrubs closely trimmed and shaped, gave the garden a structure, little pools and running water, and gently curved bridges. There were no extravagant colours, just a range of greens and browns, but even in winter it was an attractive place. There is little that suggests this is a place waiting for the longer days and warmer weather of spring.
The Gardens contain the remains of Edo Castle, and the city that grew up around the castle was called Edo until 1868, when it was renamed Tokyo. Huge granite blocks make up those parts of the walls that still stand. The imperial family live in a much more modern building, in another part of the grounds and, as the current Emperor has currently no grandsons, there is a debate as to whether the law should be changed to allow female succession.
From journal Tokyo and Kamakura
November 7, 2004
From journal Unbelievable Tokyo
Depew, New York
January 30, 2004
Here you will also find a stone foundation, which is what remains of the central keep of old Edo Castle. There are also several of the old guard houses in the gardens with plaques telling you of their function.
There are rest houses in several places in the gardens where you can buy snacks and postcards as well as having restrooms. The gardens are a very peaceful area. You can get a glimpse of the Imperial Palace. You cannot get into the Palace or the grounds right around the palace.
From journal Tokyo-Cosmopolitan and Friendly
Los Gatos, California
November 17, 2003
It was raining when we returned two days later to tour the Tokyo palace grounds. We joined approximately two hundred Japanese citizens for a walking tour of the Japanese equivalent of the White House. Being the only foreigners, we were surprised at how welcomed we were made to feel, not only by the staff and guide, but also by our fellow sightseers.
The tour group was not allowed to enter the palace itself, the home of the Imperial family, but we did witness three female members of the family returning to the palace in three separate limosines. We were told that they travel in separate vehicles as a safety measure.
The palace grounds are kept immaculate, even on rainy days. There are two moats (an inner and an outer) and several guard towers which were originally built to defend the palace, usually with bows and arrows and other hand weapons.
The palace building in Tokyo is a modern steel and glass structure, presenting a great contrast to the remaining original buildings.
If you are able, take the time to arrange a visit to the palace and the East Gardens. You'll experience firsthand the pride and friendliness of the Japanese people.
From journal First Half of Our Dream Vacation
August 20, 2002
The current Imperial Palace occupies the site of the former Edo Castle, which was reportedly the largest in the world at that time. It used to have a whopping 99 gates, 21 watchtowers and 28 armories. Only a fraction of these elements are still in existence, namely three watchtowers. The main approach to the palace is over the Nijubashi, the two-tiered "double bridge" that beautifully crosses the moat. A view of this bridge with the palace in the background is a popular spot for photographers. There is usually a professional photographer stationed here with a few seats for organized group portraits using the palace as a wonderful backdrop.
Lovely grounds and well-manicured gardens surround the palace. The East Imperial Garden and Outer Garden are frequently as far as one can go as far as accessible areas. It is interesting to note that these areas used to border the sea before infill projects added much-needed land for city expansion. Joggers are perpetually huffing and puffing these gardens, normally in a counterclockwise direction.
The central location of the palace is naturally near many important buildings, like the National Diet Building (Japan's version of Parliament), Supreme Court, Metropolitan Police Department, Tokyo International Forum, National Theater, etc.
From journal Bill in Japan - traditional TOKYO
Mexico City, Mexico
March 28, 2002
From journal Sakura: Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
February 16, 2002
The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace are located next to the Imperial Palace and in contrast to the Palace itself the East Garden has been open to the public since 1968 – a full century after the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate! This part of the Palace grounds is the historical and geological center of Tokyo as the original Edo Castle of the Tokugawa Shogunate was in this area. Entry is free but you will receive a plastic token that must be returned upon exit at any of the three gates.
The Otemon Gate, a 1967 exact copy of the original destroyed in 1945, was historically the most important gate and was used by noblemen presenting themselves with retainers twice a month to the Shogun. Credentials were inspected at several stations and three guardhouses survived from the Edo period. One was staffed by 100 members of the four families related by blood to the Tokugawa rulers.
Just past the Otemon Gate is a small exhibition hall with rotating exhibits from the Imperial collection. Entry is free so it is worth a few minutes as there usually are some English descriptions.
There are several maps posted inside the gardens and most places of interest have some English descriptions as well. Well worth visiting is the Japanese garden with sculpted bushes, water features and a stone lantern. This part was the area where the retirement palace of the Shoguns was situated.
Going up the steep slope from here you enter the Hon Maru, or main fortress. Close to the Kitanomon gate is the foundation of the original Edo Castle, which burned down in the seventeenth century and was never rebuilt. It is worth walking to the top for great views of the park and surrounding buildings. The shogun’s residence in the two centuries after the castle was destroyed was situated where the two large lawns currently are.
In the Hon Maru rest house are photos taken of the area directly after the fall of the Shogunate in 1868. For comparison modern photos taken at the exact same spots hang next to the old ones. The old photos show how dilapidated the Tokugawa residence was as the Shogunate crumbled and the Shogun became too powerless to maintain the gardens and restore areas destroyed by fire. There are only about 12 sets of photos so visiting the rest house won’t change the atmosphere from a stroll in the park to a history lesson!
From here you could either stroll back to the Otemon Gate or exit through the Kita Hanebashi gate if you plan to visit Kitanomaru-koen or Yasukuni Shrine. However, the Hirakawamon Gate has probably the prettiest location of the three gates with beautiful walls, moats and plants and is worth the detour even if you plan to exit elsewhere.
The gardens are closed on Mondays and Fridays, but open other days from 9:30 to 16:00 (last entry 15:00).
From journal Parks and Gardens in Central Tokyo