The Tokyo Imperial Palace (皇居) is the residence of the Emperor of Japan. Located in the Chiyoda-ku ward of Tokyo, the palace is closest to the Tokyo Station and is more than 3.4 square kilometers – roughly the size of Central Park in New York City.
The current Imperial Palace in Tokyo was actually the home of the Tokugawa Shogunate until the Meiji Restoration when the imperial court was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo and Edo Castle was retaken as the residence of Japan’s emperor in 1867. The name of the palace was actually Kyuju or “palace castle” from 1888 to 1948 as a result. The original imperial palace in Kyoto, dating back to the early Nara period in the 8th and 9th centuries was preserved and is still viewable in Kyoto today.
While the palace was originally completed in 1888, it was greatly damaged and in some parts completely destroyed during World War II and many modern structures were built during the 1960s as replacements, most of them constructed by the Takenaka Corporation. Today, the grounds on which the palace sits are considered to be the most valuable property in the world, equal at one point to the value of the property of California. The property bubble has popped to some degree in Tokyo, but the central location of over 3 square kilometers of real estate in Tokyo is on par with Central Park’s value in New York City.
Visitors can view the Imperial Palace from Kokyo Gaien, located in front of the Imperial Palace. The Nijubashi is visible from here, an entrance to the normally off-limits inner-grounds. The front bridge is called Meganebashi and the back bridge is called Nijubashi.
For the most part, the Imperial Palace is off-limits to the public, with the exception of the East Gardens and a few select tours conducted the Household Agency. Additionally, the inner palace is opened up to the public on the Emperor’s Birthday, December 23, and the New Year on January 2nd every year.