National | AT A GLANCE

Tokyo's Imperial Palace grounds are peaceful oasis amid concrete jungle

by Satoko Kawasaki

Staff Writer

Adjacent to modern high-rises in the Otemachi business district, just a 10-minute walk from JR Tokyo Station, visitors can step into nature, peace and beauty in the grounds of the historic Imperial Palace. The area is a fine place to stretch out on the grass and enjoy a picnic or simply breathe in the autumn air.

Formerly the site of Edo Castle, built by the Tokugawa shogunate, the Imperial Palace is where the royal family has resided, worked and conducted rituals ever since Emperor Meiji moved from the Kyoto Imperial Palace in 1868.

Some parts are closed to the public, but large areas of the 115-hectare grounds, roughly a third the size of New York’s Central Park, are open and are popular with tourists.

Notable sights include a forest of 2,000 Japanese black pine trees and the well-tailored lawn of Kokyo Gaien National Garden. Strollers will also come across what is commonly known as Nijubashi Bridge — a popular spot for photos.

A path around the perimeter of the Imperial Palace grounds attracts more than 4,000 runners daily, while inside the season’s flora is out in force — red spider lilies at this time of year — with ducks and swans swimming about.

Open every day except for Mondays and Fridays, the East Garden is recommended for tourists who want a taste of Japanese culture and history. Visitors topped 1 million last year.

This is were they can enjoy a Japanese-style garden and inspect the remains of Edo Castle. To cater to the growing number of foreign tourists, the park’s operator started offering free tours in English this year in addition to Japanese.

Meanwhile, evening strollers can look forward to a new attraction: Plans are underway to light up buildings and bridges in Kokyo Gaien National Garden at night. At present, only the nearby Wadakura Fountain Park is set aglow.

This section, appearing in the first week of each month, offers a snapshot of areas that may interest tourists.