Photo of Day 5: Tokyo Imperial Palace
Covering an area of 1.32 sq miles the space was, during the height of the 1980s Japanese property bubble valued to be worth more than the sum of all of the real estate in California. So, it's decent bit of land to own. It is the main residence of The Emperor of Japan as well as home to a bunch of the kind of administrative offices needed by the ceremonial head of a nation.
Unlike, say, Buckingham Palace which you can stand in front of and photograph, it seems quite difficult to get up to The Emperor's front door. There is some kind of limited Daily tour - conducted only in Japanese - that visits some non-public areas but I can't tell you about it because we didn't do it.
However, the East Gardens are open to wander around and are a fascinating collection of horticulture, including areas given over to cultivating roses, tea, bamboo and a plot of land where trees representing each of Japan's 47 prefectures have been planted. There an area called Cherry Blossom Island which, I imagine, will be amazing in a few months. Surprisingly, at least one tree was in bloom but it stood out against the bare winter branches of most of the plants.
Towards the end of your wander around the gardens, if you follow the route suggested in the free map (and why wouldn't you?), there's a 18th century Japanese garden complete with running water, pool and wooden bridge.
Around the gardens there are examples of guard houses, a museum and a beautiful example of a tea house. There's also a late 1960s concert hall and buildings named Gakuba and Shoryobu on the guide (which house some of the aforementioned administrative offices; for the Music Department & Archives Department).
All-in-all, a place of beautiful, traditional tranquility in the heart of modern Tokyo. Open from 9am if you're interested.