Thursday 11 May 2017

Walking around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

A signboard with a map of the route around the Imperial Palace and a list of nine rules which walkers should follow
The "rules" for walking around the Palace
Recently, I walked around the Imperial Palace (kōkyo=皇居, lit. the emperor's residence) in Tokyo which is built on the site of the old Edo Castle. Only a short walk from Tokyo Station, it is a lovely 5km stroll around the moat. The walk takes you past a number of interesting landmarks such as the National Museum of Modern Art, the National Archives of Japan (currently holding an exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of the Constitution), and the British Embassy. The Diet (Parliament) Building is also visible in the distance on the west side. In inimitable Japanese style there are nine rules or "manners" clearly outlined (the first four are shown left) including the golden rule of walking around anti-clockwise. This is actually important since the number of joggers make it something of a health hazard to walk against the flow (the only people walking clockwise that day were foreign tourists!).

A picture of one of the plaques in the ground around the 5km walk around the Imperial Palace. This shows Gunma's prefectural flowe, the Japanese azalea
Japanese azalea (renge tsutsuji)
One interesting feature are the plaques in the ground spaced at 100m intervals, each plaque showing the flower of one of the 47 Japanese prefectures. The picture on the right shows Gunma's prefectural flower which is a Japanese azalea (renge tsutsuji) which was introduced in a previous post as poisonous! The highlight of the walk though, and the most crowded section, is in the area looking over what is commonly known as the Nijū-bashi ("double bridge"=二重橋) which leads to the main gate of the palace. This bridge is widely mixed up with the double-arched Megane-bashi or "Spectacles Bridge" (pictured below left) which is actually in front of  the Nijū-bashi, officially called Ishibashi ("Stone Bridge"). All very confusing!

Views from the 5km circuit around the Imperial Palace, including the Megane-bashi (Spectacles Bridge) left