East Garden of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace was within walking distance of our Tokyo hotel. The inner grounds of the Palace are generally not open to the public. The East Garden, however, is readily accessible.

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Here is one of the main entrances, called the Otemachi Gate.

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The current Imperial Palace is the former site of Edo Castle, which was the residence of the Tokugawa feudal lord who ruled Japan from the beginning of the 17th to the middle of the 19th centuries. It became home to the Japanese emperors after they were restored as head of government in 1867.2016-08-02-01-00-59

The East Garden is surrounded by a wide moat.

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Not a fish I would want to meet in a dark alley, or swimming pool.

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Edo Castle’s tower and most of the related buildings are mere ruins now. A new palace was built for the Emperor in 1888. However, there are still many walls built of massive stone. They are quite imposing, to say the least.

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Some of the samurai barracks also remain, like the one above.

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This is one of the surviving castle keeps, which were used for storage and defense. It’s called Fujimi-Yagura, because you can sometimes see Mt. Fuji from the top story. Sadly it was not open to the public.

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Cloud-pruned trees are common throughout the grounds. They seem a bit strange juxtaposed with a military barracks. I wonder if they stood here in the time of the Shogun.

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In another area there is a naturalistic garden with a grove of bamboo.

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This is part of the East Garden, called Ninomaru, looks more like a garden.

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There are ponds and foot bridges. Crape Myrtles were just about the only plants we found in bloom.

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We enjoyed the reflections of the trees in the waters.

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A small waterfall at one end.

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Gravel, stone, and water. In a mountainous country, it makes sense for stones to play a prominent role in the garden. Back home in Illinois (the prairie state), they seem to fit in only as a more understated element, like Jens Jensen’s low walls of horizontal limestone.

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More cloud pruning on the way to another gate.

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And more walls. I would love to be here when those trees are in bloom.

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And here is the smaller gate through which we will take our leave.

2016-08-02-02-27-16A look back at the palace walls as we head back to our hotel. Overall, I would say this is a place absolutely worth visiting, but more out of historic than horticultural interest.

21 Comments on “East Garden of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace

  1. Ninomaru looks like a pleasure garden with a Japanese twist. I have noticed in several pictures of the bridges they have supports right in the middle of the bridge. I imagine that over time those long spans sag a bit in the middle. Some of those tall trees would be quite difficult to trim into clouds I would think. A pretty place no doubt.

  2. While I can appreciate Asian gardens on some levels, I have to admit they don’t “do it for me” emotionally. This one, with its heavy walls and over abundance of manicured plants seems especially cumbersome and awkward. I don’t sense the rhythm and grace found at Rikugi-en, shown in your previous post.

    • I usually find it very easy to resist Japanese gardens. However, on this trip I did come to appreciate them more. Perhaps it was just the sense of history attached to the ones we say in Japan. As for the Imperial Palace, though, it was more interesting historically than horticulturally – I felt it was more of a fortress than a garden.

  3. I love those trees – they soften the harsh stone walls a little. And the use of water also makes the stone and rock less imposing.

    • The stone walls are definitely imposing. The pond softened its surroundings, but the moat seemed to me to add to the forbidding quality of the place.

  4. Yes it’s formal, but I always think of these gardens as serene. I would also love to see what it was like in its heyday, much less garden and much more imposing I’m sure.

  5. It’s amazing how the rocks in the walls fit so closely together yet are of random shapes. Wow. The “feel” of place in your photos (or Judy’s) is one of peace.–It comes right through.

  6. Hello Jason, Japanese gardens focus much more on form and structure and have such a level of detail that it can feel as though every leaf is set in place. It makes my crazy garden borders with their wild and overflowing plants look crass in comparison!

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