Tokyo Imperial Palace

Tokyo Imperial Palace

nihongo|Tokyo Imperial Palace|皇居|kōkyo; literally Imperial Residence is the imperial main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park-like area located in Chiyoda, Tokyo close to Tokyo Station and contains various buildings such as the main palace (nihongo|"Kyūden"|宮殿) and the private residences of the imperial family. The total area including the gardens is roughly the size of Central Park, and has an area of 3.41 square kilometers. During the height of the 1980s Japanese property bubble, the palace grounds were purportedly valued by some as more than the value of all the real estate in the state of California [ [ Telegraph | Oriental risks and rewards for optimistic occidentals] 06/08/2004] .


After the capitulation of the Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, the inhabitants including the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu had to vacate the premises of Edo Castle and the emperor and his court moved in from Kyoto Imperial Palace. The Edo castle compound was renamed nihongo|Tokyo Castle|東京城|Tokyo-jō in October, 1868, and then renamed nihongo|Imperial Castle|皇城|Kōjō in 1869. In the second year of Meiji, on the 23rd day of the 10th month (1868), the emperor went to Tokyo; and Edo castle became an Imperial palace. [Ponsonby-Fane, Richard A. B. (1956). "Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869," p. 328.]

A fire consumed the whole of the old Edo Castle complex on the night of 5 May 1873. The area around the old donjon, which burned in the 1657 Meireki fire, became the site of the new imperial nihongo|Palace Castle|宮城|Kyūjō built in 1888. The Meiji imperial palace building itself however was not on the same location as the Shogun's palace, which was located in the Honmaru.

In the Meiji period, most Edo period structures of Edo Castle disappeared, either due to destruction to make way for other buildings or by earthquakes and fires. For example the wooden double bridges ("Nijūbashi") over the moat were replaced with stone and iron bridges in the Western style. The architecture of the imperial palace and buildings constructed in the Meiji era was from the outside pure traditional Japanese architecture, while the interior were an eclectic mixture of Japanese and Western European elements fashionable in the 19th century. Most of the buildings were constructed out of wood. For example the ceiling would be coffered with Japanese elements, however Western furniture such as chairs and tables, and heavy curtains instead of the traditional shōji be used. For the floor, some rooms used the traditional "tatami" mats, while most rooms had either parquet or were covered in carpets in the western style.

The main audience hall was the central part of the palace. It was the largest building in where honoured guests were received and public events. The floor space was a little more than 223 tsubo (1 tsubo is 3.306 m²). In the interior, the coffered ceiling was traditional Japanese-style, while the floor was parquetry without any traditional dividing sliding doors in the western style. The roof was styled just like in the Kyoto Imperial Palace, but unlike there the roof was not covered in Japanese cypress shingles but with copper plates in order to reduce the weight and make it fireproof.

In the late Taisho and early Showa period, more buildings were added that were constructed out of concrete, such as the headquarters of the Imperial Household Ministry and the Privy Council. These structures were much more modern with only some token Japanese elements.

From 1888 to 1948, it was called nihongo|Palace Castle|宮城|Kyūjō. The Imperial Palace was not spared destruction during World War II from heavy American bombardments. Most of the wooden structures burned down, including the main palace. It was from the basement of the library constructed out of concrete where Emperor Showa declared the capitulation of Japan in 1945. Due to the large-scale destruction of the Meiji-era palace during World II, the new main palace hall (nihongo|"Kyūden"|宮殿) and residences were constructed on the western part of the site in the 1960s. The whole area was renamed nihongo|Imperial Palace", literally "Imperial Residence"|皇居|Kōkyo in 1948. The east part was renamed nihongo|East Garden|東御苑|Higashi-Gyoen and is as a public park since 1968.

The present imperial palace is located in the retrenchments of former Edo Castle where the Honmaru (inner citadel), Ninomaru (second citadel), Sannomaru (third citadel), Nishinomaru (west citadel), Sannomaru (third citadel), and Fukiage Gardens existed. A palace (nihongo|"Kyūden"|宮殿) for various imperial court functions is located in the Nishinomaru and the residence of the emperor and empress is located in the Fukiage Gardens.

The Kitanomaru Park is located to the north and is the former northern enceinte of Edo Castle. It is today a public park and Nippon Budokan Hall is located there. To the south are the large outer gardens of the imperial palace, which is also a public park today. A bronze monument to Prince Kitashirakawa Yoshihisa is located there.



The Imperial Palace (nihongo|"Kyūden"|宮殿) and the headquarters of the Imperial Household Agency are located in the former Nishinomaru enceinte of Edo Castle.

The main buildings of the palace grounds, including the (nihongo|"Kyūden"|宮殿) main palace, home of the liaison conference of the Imperial General Headquarters, were greatly damaged by fire in May 1945 during World War II. Today's palace consists of multiple modern structures that are connected with each other. The palace complex was finished in 1968 and made out of steel-framed reinforced concrete structures produced domestically with two storeys above ground and one storey below ground. The buildings of the Imperial Palace were constructed by the Takenaka Corporation in a modernist style with clear Japanese architectural references such as the large, gabled hipped roof, columns and beams.

The complex consists of seven wings, including:

* Seiden State Function Hall,
* Homeiden State Banquet Hall,
* Chowaden Reception Hall,
* Rensui Dining Room,
* Chigusa Chidori Drawing Room and
* the Emperor's work office.

Halls include the Minami-Damari, Nami-no-Ma, multiple Kairo, Kita-Kurumayose, Kita-Damari, Syakkyo-no-Ma, Shunju-no-Ma, Seiden-Sugitoe (Kaede), Seiden-Sugitoe (Sakura), Take-no-Ma, Ume-no-Ma and Matsu-no-Ma.

The (nihongo|"Kyūden"|宮殿) is used for both receiving state guests and holding official state ceremonies and functions. The Matsu-no-Ma (Pine Chamber) is the throne room, the emperor gives audiences to the prime minister here as well as to new or departing ambassadors.

Each New Year and the Emperor's Birhday, the public enters through the Nakamon (inner gate) to the Kyuden Totei Plaza in front of the Chowaden Hall of the palace where the imperial family appears on the balcony to a jubilant crowd. The emperor normally holds a short speech greeting and thanking the visitors and wishing them good health and blessings.

Fukiage Garden

The Fukiage Garden carries the name since the Edo period and is the most part that is used a residential area for the imperial family.

Fukiage Ōmiya Palace

The nihongo|Fukiage Ōmiya Palace|吹上大宮御所|Fukiage Ōmiya-gosho in the northern part was originally the residence of Emperor Showa and Empress Kōjun and was called "Fukiage Palace". After the Emperor's death in 1989, the palace was renamed Fukiage Ōmiya Palace where the Empress Dowager lived until her death in 2000. [ [ The Imperial Palace and other Imperial Household Establishments ] ]

Three Structures of the Imperial Palace

The palace precincts include the Three Palace Sanctuaries ("Kyūchūsanden", 宮中三殿). Parts of the Imperial Regalia of Japan are kept here and the sanctuary plays a religious role.

East Garden

The East Garden is where most of the administrative buildings for the palace are located and encompases the former Honmaru and Ninomaru areas of Edo Castle, a total of 210,000 square meters. Located on the grounds of the East Garden is the Imperial "Tokagakudo" Music Hall, the Music Department of the Board of Ceremonies of the Imperial Household, the Archives and Mausolea Department Imperial Household Agency, structures for the guards such as the "Saineikan" dojo, and the Museum of the Imperial Collections.

Several structures that were added since the Meiji period were removed over time to have the East Garden constructed. In 1932, the "kuretake-ryō" was built as a dormitory for imperial princesses, this building was however removed prior to the construction of the present gardens. Other buildings such as stables and housing buildings were all removed for the East Garden in its present shape.

Construction work began in 1961 with a new pon in the Ninomaru, as well as the repair and restoration of various keeps and structures from the Edo period. On May 30, 1963 the area was declared by the Japanese government a "Special Historic Relic" under the Cultural Properties Protection Law.

Tōkagakudō (Music Hall)

The Tōkagakudō (Peach Blossom Music Hall) is located to the east of the former main donjon of Edo Castle in the Honmaru. This music hall was built in commemoration of the 60th birthday of Empress Kojun on March 6, 1963. The ferro-concrete building covers a total area of 1,254 square meters. The hall is octahedron in shape and each of its eight outer walls is decorated with differently designed mosaic tiles. Construction began in August 1964 and was completed on February 1966.

Ninomaru Garden

Symbolic trees representing each prefecture in Japan are planted in the northwestern corner of Ninomaru enceinte. Such trees have been donated from each prefecture and total of 260, covering 30 varieties.

Suwa no chaya

The Suwa no chaya is a teahouse that was located in the Fukiage Garden during the Edo period. It was once moved to the Akasaka Detached Palace after the Meiji restoration but was reconstructed in its original location in 1912. It was moved to the present location with the construction of the East Garden.

Most of the palace is generally off-limits to the public, but the Imperial Household Agency conducts [ tours] . Except for the East Gardens which are usually accessible. The inner palace is open to the public on only two days during each year, the Emperor's birthday and at New Year (January 2).


External links

* [ Imperial Household Agency | Imperial Palace in Tokyo]
* [ Kunaicho | Image gallery of the Imperial Palace]
* [ Information on visiting the Imperial Palace on the Emperor's birthday]
* [ Imperial Palace Guide @] Information and Gallery

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