It’s a national holiday in Japan tomorrow, but do you know what day is it? It’s the birthday of Emperor Akihito, so as well as being a national holiday (yay! no school), so the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo will also be open for public access! Take this great opportunity to stroll through the forbidden grounds, wave the Hi no Maru (日の丸) with the crowd, and of course, use your great Japanese skills to listen to the Emperor’s speech 😀
While part of Tokyo school’s Japanese Plus Culture course is visiting the Imperial Palace (皇居), the tour is pretty much limited to strolling around the moat and stone walls. Certainly the Eastern Imperial gardens are beautiful with its seasonal changes such as cherry blossoms in Spring and red leaves in Autumn, but visitors are not granted access to the inner grounds. However, twice every year, the Imperial Palace opens its gates to the public, once on the Emperor’s birthday and once during the New Year celebrations.
Those of you who are in Tokyo, it’s a great opportunity to drop by the Imperial Palace tomorrow, 23 December, the birthday of Emperor Akihito. The two nearest stations, Otemachi Station and Tokyo Station will be jammed packed (even more so than the usual rush hour crowd), filled with Japanese locals visiting to pay respect to their Emperor, tourists who can’t miss the opportunity to glimpse inside the Imperial Palace, as well as all the security personnel. Be warned, it’s going to be CROWDED, but since it’s Japan, it will still going to be pretty orderly and safe.
The only gates that will be opened to allow public access is the Nijubashi Gate. There will be make shift check points there where security personnel will inspect your belongings. For larger bags and suit cases, you will have to deposit them with the security office and only pick them up after your tour. We highly recommend you to have as little personal belongings on you as possible to avoid all the hassle. A small Japanese flag, or more commonly known as Hi no Maru (日の丸) will also be handed out to visitors.
Once you enter the usually closed off Nijubashi gates, you’ll be able to get a full view of the Fushimi Yagura guardhouse. This architecture was formally constructed as part of the Fushimi Castle in Kyoto, and was moved to Tokyo (then known as Edo) in the 1600s ordered by the Tokugawa government.
At the end of the walk, you will arrive at the Inner Gate in front of the Chowa Den Reception hall (長和殿) where the Emperor and the Imperial family will greet the public.
Here is the schedule for tomorrow:
First Appearance: Around 10:20 a.m.
Second Appearance: Around 11:00 a.m.
Third Appearance: Around 11:40 a.m.
If you’ve missed the visit on 23 December, the next one will be on 2 January, where the Emperor will give his new year speech.