The chief attraction of the Marunouchi district is undoubtedly the Imperial Palace with its parks surrounded by walls and moats (which date from 1613). It is the residence of the Imperial family. The Imperial Palace stands on the site where in 1457 the Feudal Lord Ota Dokan built a first fortress, which served as the focal point from which the city of Tokyo (or Edo, as it was then) gradually spread outwards.
After capturing the fortress in 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu rebuilt it, making it the strongest in the land. Subsequently it was burnt down in a disastrous fire in 1657 and only partially restored. Until 1868 the splendid palace was the residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns. With the restoration of Imperial authority and the transfer of the seat of government from Kyoto to the city which had now been renamed Tokyo, it became the Imperial residence. After destruction in 1873 and again in 1945, the palace has been rebuilt in traditional “flat” style.
The Nijubashi Bridge leads into the interior. Its name, meaning “double bridge”, refers to its appearance as reflected in the water. The wall surrounding the palace, which is 7ft (2m) thick, is pierced by gates. Of these the S Sakurda-mon was formerly the main Chamberlain’s Office, and the Ote-mon, Kirakawa-mon the Kita-Hanebashi-mon are three gates which give access to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace which is open to the public.
Up until the end of the last war it was customary for all passengers on buses passing the palace walls to obey the conductor’s order “Kyojo ni!” (Bow!)
The individual buildings of the Palace are the Main Building (Kyuden), the Residential Building (fukiage-gosho) and the three Palace Buildings (Kashikodore, Koreiden and Shinden). Within the Palace are to be found a hospital, an air-raid shelter, tennis courts, stables for horses, a cemetery, a paddy field, a kitchen garden, a hen house and a silk-worm farm. Emperor Hirohito also has had a large laboratory installed here for his own research and experiments. The 245 families, which make up the Imperial household, live in the Palace. Incidentally Hirohito is pronounced “Hero-heeto”but by the Japanese he is also called tenno heika and the Emperor’s name is never used. The Palace is not open to the public; the Palace Gardens are open to the public only on two days in the year, on 2 January and on 29 April (the Emperor’s birthday). On these days people flock past in order to catch sight of the Emperor – who lets himself be seen several times in the course of the day – and to wish him good fortune. On other days permission for a visit must be obtained from the Imperial Chamberlain’s Office (Kunaicho).
The East Higashi-Gyo-en Garden (or Imperial Palace East Garden) can however be visited regularly. It has a few old buildings, which are worth seeing.
Formerly the Kinomaru Park formed part of the Palace grounds. It is now cut off by the motorway.
In April and October the Togakudo (Music Room) of the Palace is open to the public for the Bunraku and Gagaku performances. To obtain an entry ticket a postcard, with a stamped reply envelope, must be sent to the Imperial Chamberlain’s Office (Kunaicho), which is housed in the Sakashita-mon Gate. The exact dates of performances are announced in the newspapers.
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Edited by : Arlynne Hurley