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@ Edo Castle / Imperial Palace East Garden Otemon gate - Tokyo Tourist Guide

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Initially constructed in 1620, located east of the Kokyo Higashigyoen Park, after being burned it was again reconstructed in 1659 until further woes; earthquakes etc, required full reconstruction - completed in 1967

Return to East Gardens Map

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AdmissionRefer to Kokyo Higashigyoen park
OpenRefer to Kokyo Higashigyoen park
AddressKokyo Higashigyoen, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Phone03-3213-1111
AccessFrom Tokyo Metro Otemachi Station C10 Exit: 1 mins on foot to Otemachimon gate

Return to East Gardens Map

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The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace mark the former site of Edo Castle. Today, two guardhouses, a keep and a defense house are still standing. The other buildings were destroyed by a number of fires that occurred between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Inside the gardens, a guide book and map are available from the shop. There's also a small museum housing Emperor Showa's art collection.

Open: 09:00am to 04:30 pm (but subject to times of the year)

Closed: Mondays, Fridays (except public holidays). December 25th to January 23rd.

Admission: Free

How to get there

Leave Tokyo Station via the Marunouchi exit and follow the signposts to the Imperial Palace Plaza. Next walk towards the Palace Hotel. You'll then find the entrance through Ote-mon Gate

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The history of the Imperial Palace dates  way back to to end of the Heian or the beginning of the Kamakura Era when Edo Shigetsugu, a warrior, who constructed what is now know as the Honmaru and Ninomaru of Edo Castle or Edo-jou (]ŒΛι ), which was also called Chiyoda Castle or Chiyoda-jou (η‘γ“cι; ).

The real castle however was built by Ota "Dokan" Sukenaga ‘Ύ“c“ΉŸσŽ‘’· (1432-1486) a samurai/warrior poet, and military tactician. He became a Buddhist monk in 1478 and chose the name Dokan. He became best known as the architect and builder of the castle and the founder of the town around it that grew into Edo.

The castle was taken over by the Houjou clan, who left it after the Siege of Odawara in 1590. Tokugawa Ieyasu made it his residence after he was offered six eastern provinces by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. When Tokugawa Ieyasu became the Shogun (seii Taishogun) and political leader  in 1603 after his victory during the battle of Sekigahara on 21 October 1600, Edo became the military capital of Japan and the center of his Tokugawa administration.

In the beginning the Nishinomaru area was at the sea shore and present-day Hibiya was a beach. The land was filled to enlarge the castle. Most of the construction was done between 1593 and 1636, when it was completed by Ieyasu's grandson Tokugawa Iemitsu. Edo had grown from a small fishing village to a city with a population of about 150,000 people.

The main areas were Honmaru, Ninomaaru and Sannomaru. Later other areas like the Nishinomare, Nishinomaru-shita, Fukiage and Kitanomaru were added to make the total perimeter about 16 kilometers.

Naturally all this construction cost a lot of money. The first phase alone is said to have involved at least 10,000 men, which grew out till roughly 300,000 workers half-way during the construction. In order to cover costs the Daimyo were required to supply the Tokugawa Shogun with finances or building materials. Depending on the wealth of the Daimyo large or smaller granite stones were moved to the site from all over Japan. The richer Daimyos were order to contribute the most. The less affluent ones had to provide laborers. Hills were flattened, moats dug, and land reclaimed from the sea. Due to all this action a real city was born around Edo Castle. The castle itself, when all was done, had walls that were 12 meters high, and ramparts of nearly 20 meters, some of which are still standing today. The Kanda river and the sea provided access for ships, while moats reached as far as the Yotsuya and Ichigaya areas and served as further protection.

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Although the castle has never been under siege, it has not been spared from calamities. Since the buildings were made out of wood, several fires destroyed or damaged parts of the castle.

In 1657 during the Meireki Fire the old dojo was destroyed. In 1873, on May 5, the complete Edo Castle burnt down. This area became the site of the Imperial Palace in the Meiji Era in 1888. Shogun's Palace however had always been in Honmaru.

By the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1867, the Shogun was forced to vacate the Castle and its name was changed to Tokyo Castle only to be renamed again two years later to Imperial Castle (cι Kojo). The emperor had already moved to Tokyo in 1868. Some of the Tokugawa structures were broken down to make room for buildings of the imperial government.Buildings constructed during the Meiji Era were mainly traditional on the outside, but the inside contained Western furniture and curtain. The public areas had parquet or carpet, while the private living areas had traditional tatami mats. During the Taisho and Showa Eras several others concrete buildings,with modern features like the headquarters of the Imperial Household and the Privy Council, were constructed. On 25 May 1945 during the bombing raid off Tokyo most of the structures were destroyed. In August 1945 the Showa Emperor capitulated from the concrete basement of the Imperial Library. Nevertheless several moats and ramparts of the castle are still in tact today, but the area is a lot smaller than it was during the Edo Period, when it included the areas of Tokyo Station and Marunouchi, and Kitanomaru Park. The Kitanomaru Park is located to the north and is the former northern  Edo Castle. It is a public park and Nippon Budokan Hall is located there. To the south are the large outer gardens of the imperial palace, which is also a public park.

Because of the large scale destruction during World War II, it was decided that the new palace hall or Kyuuden (‹{“a) and the residence would be constructed on the western part of the grounds in the 1960s. In 1948 the area was renamed Imperial Residence or Kōkyo (c‹), the residence of the emperor and empress, which is located in the Fukiage Gardens. A palace or Kyūuden (‹{“a) for various imperial court functions is located in the Nishinomaru. The eastern part became East Garden or Higashi-Gyoen  (“ŒŒδ‰‘ ), which became a public park in 1968.The present imperial palace encompasses the retrenchments of the former Edo Castle where the Honmaru (inner citadel), Ninomaru (second citadel), Nishinomaru (west citadel), Sannomaru (third citadel), and Fukiage Gardens existed.

The total area including the gardens is 3.41 square kilometers. During the height of the 1980s Japanese property bubble, when one square inch cost US $ 125, the palace grounds were valued by some as more than the value of all the real estate in the state of California.

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