Tokyo Imperial Palace (皇居 Kōkyo?, literally, "Imperial Residence") is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park-like area located in the Chiyoda area of Tokyo close to Tokyo Station and contains several buildings including the main palace (宮殿 (Kyūden?)), the private residences of the imperial family, an archive, museum and administrative offices. It is built on the site of the old Edo Castle. The total area including the gardens is 3.41 square kilometres (1.32 sq mi). During the height of the 1980s Japanese property bubble, the palace grounds were valued by some as more than the value of all the real estate in the state of California.
After the capitulation of the Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, the inhabitants, including the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, were required to vacate the premises of the Edo Castle. Leaving Kyoto Imperial Palace, on 26 November 1868 the emperor arrived at Edo castle, made it to his new residence and renamed it to Tōkei Castle. At this time Tōkyō had also been called Tōkei. He left for Kyōto again, and after coming back on 9 May 1869 it was renamed to Imperial Castle.
Previous fires already destroyed the Honmaru area containing the old donjon (which itself burned in the 1657 Meireki fire). On the night of 5 May 1873, a fire consumed the Nishinomaru Palace (formerly the shogun's residence), and the new imperial Palace Castle was constructed on the site in 1888.
In the Meiji era, most structures from Edo Castle disappeared. Some were cleared to make way for other buildings while others were destroyed by earthquakes and fire. For example, the wooden double bridges over the moat were replaced with stone and iron bridges. The buildings of the Imperial Palace constructed in the Meiji era were constructed of wood.
Their design employed traditional Japanese architecture in their exterior appearance while the interiors were an eclectic mixture of Japanese and European elements fashionable in the 19th century. The ceilings of the grand chambers were coffered with Japanese elements; however, Western chairs, tables, and heavy curtains furnished the spaces. The floors of the public rooms had parquets or carpets while the residential spaces used the traditional tatami mats.
The main audience hall was the central part of the palace. It was the largest building in the compound and was where guests were received for public events. The floor space was more than 223 tsubo or approximately 737.25 m2 (7,935.7 sq ft). In the interior, the coffered ceiling was traditional Japanese-style, while the floor was parquetry. The roof was styled similarly to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, but was covered with copper plates (to make it fireproof) rather than Japanese cypress shingles.
The present Imperial Palace encompasses the retrenchments of the former Edo Castle. The modern palace Kyūden for various imperial court functions is located in the old Nishinomaru, while the residence of the emperor and empress is located in the Fukiage Gardens. Except for Imperial Household Agency and the East Gardens, the palace is generally closed to the public.
Each New Year (January 2) and Emperor's Birthday, the public is permitted to enter through the Nakamon (inner gate) where they gather in the Kyuden Totei Plaza in front of the Chowaden Hall. The imperial family appears on the balcony before the jubilant crowd and the emperor normally gives a short speech greeting and thanking the visitors and wishing them good health and blessings.
The old Honmaru, Ninomaru, and Sannomaru compounds now comprise the East Gardens, an area with public access containing administrative and other public buildings. The Kitanomaru Park is located to the north and is the former northern enceinte of Edo Castle. It is a public park and is the site of Nippon Budokan Hall. To the south are the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace (Kōkyo-gaien), which are also a public park.
Imperial Palace Grounds
The main buildings of the palace grounds, including the main palace, home of the liaison conference of the Imperial General Headquarters, were severely damaged by the fire of May 1945. Today's palace consists of multiple modern structures that are interconnected. The palace complex was finished in 1968 and was constructed of steel-framed reinforced concrete structures produced domestically, with two stories above ground and one story below. The buildings of the Imperial Palace were constructed by the Takenaka Corporation in a modernist style with clear Japanese architectural references such as the large, gabled hipped roof, columns and beams.
The complex consists of seven wings, including:
- Seiden State Function Hall
- Hōmeiden State Banquet Hall
- Chōwaden Reception Hall
- Rensui Dining Room
- Chigusa Chidori Drawing Room and
- The Emperor's work office
The Fukiage Ōmiya Palace in the northern section was originally the residence of Emperor Showa and Empress Kōjun and was called the Fukiage Palace. After the Emperor's death in 1989, the palace was renamed the Fukiage Ōmiya Palace and was the residence of the Empress Dowager until her death in 2000.
The East Garden is where most of the administrative buildings for the palace are located and encompasses the former Honmaru and Ninomaru areas of Edo Castle, a total of 210,000 m2 (2,300,000 sq ft). Located on the grounds of the East Garden is the Imperial Tokagakudo Music Hall, the Music Department of the Board of Ceremonies of the Imperial Household, the Archives and Mausolea Department Imperial Household Agency, structures for the guards such as the Saineikan dojo, and the Museum of the Imperial Collections
- Tōkagakudō (Music Hall)
- Ninomaru Garden
- Suwa no Chaya