I decided to take a stroll around the Imperial Palace after seeing a Central Tokyo walking tour in my little guidebook. Before we get any further I have to warn you that this day ended up being a bit disappointing.
You cannot just show up and walk into the palace grounds (because it's being occupied by the imperial family!). Instead you can walk around the east gardens, see the moat, and get a glimpse of the other masses of tourists who've come to do the same thing (avoiding them in my photos was pretty hard to do but I managed). However, if you make reservations in advance, you may join a Japanese-speaking tour using an English audio guided headphone set. I'll have to get on this.
Apparently the two times of the year in which you may enter to hear speeches by the royal family are on December 23 (Emperor's birthday) and on January 2 (New Year's). We will be out of the country for both! Gah!
Here's a little visual tour of what you'll encounter...
Edo period landscape acts as a barrier between the modern city and the ancient castle walls.
The most iconic view - Nijumbashi - two bridges leading to the interior palace grounds.
A walk around the extensive wall will take you from the statue of Wake no Kiyomaro, around the picturesque moat, and end at Hibiya Park.
This used to be the site of Edo Castle but was rebuilt as the Imperial Palace in the late 1800's (the former capital being in Kyoto). It was destroyed during the WWII Allied firebombing raid on Tokyob, but rebuilt in the 1960's.
Hibiya Park is a center for many cultural activities throughout the year. On this visit it was peaceful, empty, and a welcome break from the palace crowds.
My Imperial Palace tour started and ended at the train, of course. The closest stop is Tokyo Station, a major hub of activity. I had to take a moment to stop and admire its' beautiful brick exterior and grand entrance ceiling.
I hope to eventually have an update with information about the guided walking tour!