Kyoto Imperial Palace

We just love the imperial palace with its vast and impressive park. The palace is located in central Kyoto and is only a short bus or subway ride from Kyoto station, or about a 40min walk. We have visited the imperial palace on a number of occasions previously, as it’s so central and in a convenient location.

The Kyoto Imperial Palace was the residence for Japan’s Imperial Family until 1868, after which the emperor and capital were moved to Tokyo.  The imperial palace itself is located in the centre of the park, with the palace, halls and its gardens being surround by strikingly high long walls with several impressive gates. The current Imperial Palace was actually constructed in 1855 after it burnt down! 

Shishin-den Hall_1

Previously you could only enter the inner palace grounds and gardens by advanced booking on a guided tour, but now as we did last year you can enter and explore the ground and gardens without a tour guide, though none of the buildings can be entered.

Although we had visited the Imperial Palace Park before, we had not entered the palace gardens. Last year when we visited, we soon realised that an advanced booking on a tour guide was no longer needed, and so we jumped at the chance and took advantage of this. It turned out to be a real bonus to our trip, as the Imperial Palace’s inner grounds and gardens are absolutely fantastic.

Black Pine_1

From there we walked around the courtyard to the western side of the palace inner grounds where we were guided by the paths to one of the Palaces gardens, the Oikeniwa Garden. We walked through a narrow opening and the garden just hit us, with its pond, bridges, rocks and pine trees. The layout of the garden is just superb and was a pleasure to be in, although it was not a large garden it was hard to capture the whole splendour of the garden in just one photo, as it had many angles and viewpoints.

Oikeniwa Garden_1

Oikeniwa Garden_2

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From this garden we walked straight into the next, called the Gonaitei Garden. This garden was as impressive as the previous although not as big, it consisted of a pond like stream with bridges, with large rocks, pine trees and acers. Also, what we found as impressive were large Japanese white pines, which are not commonly seen as big. 

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Please find our other Kyoto articles in the 'Kyoto' section of the website.

Kyoto Palace Grounds

The palace park grounds are 1300 meter long and 700 meter wide and serves as a recreational space for residents and tourists. There are vast broad gravel paths and large expanses of lawn areas and tree groves and ponds. (Large lawned areas are not so common to see in Japan). 

Shishin-den Hall_2

We entered the inner grounds through one of the eastern gates were all visitors are met by security all bags had to be checked then everyone was given a number to wear,  we guessed this was because so they knew how many people were in the inner grounds.  Like a lot of gardens there was a directional route set out in the inner grounds and gardens which guided us down past the imposing black pine tree’s to the southern part of the grounds, to where the impressive Shishin-den Hall is located.  In front of the hall is a large courtyard which is surrounded by three impressive large traditional walls, with the round upright poles being painted in red and the inset panels being white with each side having a gate. You really get a sense of what it must have been like back in the day! 

Red Pine
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Oikeniwa Garden_4
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Gonaitei Garden_3
Gonaitei Garden_5

From the garden we were then guided back past some more imposing pine trees to the entrance at the western gate where we had initially come in.  It was a privilege to see such gardens in all their splendour especially with the beautiful autumn colours. 

Inner Palace Grounds_3