Wednesday, December 7, 2016

See One Thing: The Imperial Palace Gardens

Tokyo is regularly featured on lists of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it is easy to see why.  The ten to twelve hour layovers that I find are standard when connecting from a Southeast Asia flight back to the US give me the perfect amount of time to 'see one thing' in the city.  It is a massive urban area, but is immaculately maintained, safe to explore, and features some elegant public spaces.  One of the most famous and accessible of these is the grounds of the Imperial Palace, and the surrounding gardens.  This complex includes the residences of the emperor and empress, various administrative and government buildings, as well as the gardens. 
It is an expansive space, set in the heart of the city, just a few blocks from Tokyo station.  It is estimated that at the height of the Tokyo property bubble, the Imperial Palace and grounds foot-for-foot were worth as much as all the real estate in California, combined!
Much of the grounds are closed to the public, but the East Gardens are free of admission.  You get there by crossing the moat that encircles the grounds via one of the bridges.  At the gate, you are given a free 'admission ticket' that you hand back when you leave.
Wandering around the gardens is a perfect respite from a long weekend of traveling.  When I have a layover in Tokyo long enough to make it into the city, which takes approximately an hour each way via the Narita Express train, I try to spend a good amount of it outdoors.  Of course, my second order of business is always a sushi lunch! 

The gardens are comprised of many smaller areas of trees and planted areas, that allow for a range of experiences.  There are groves of bamboo, ponds, and waterfalls.

 The use of water was particularly beautiful.  It made the spaces seem even more peaceful, even amidst such a busy urban area.  

There were also some of the most beautiful Koi I've seen.  They were swimming by one of the bridges over their pond, probably hoping it was feeding time. 

It wasn't cherry blossom season when I visited, but there were still a few last petals hanging on. 

After a relaxing stroll for about an hour, I headed back into the rest of the city to look at the nearby shops and get some food before catching the train back to the airport.  As always, the train was immaculately on time, clean, and quiet.  I arrived back in plenty of time to enjoy a drink at the Sakura 1st lounge, before catching my flight back home.  
Just one more reason to love a Tokyo stopover!
Travel well,
If you're looking for other one-day stop tips, also check out See One Thing: Victoria Peak

 This post is part of #WanderfulWednesdays, Budget Traveler's Sandbox's #TravelPhotoThursday, #WeekendTravelInspiration, and #FlyAwayFriday at Time Travel Blonde. Check out these linkups!


  1. Thanks for the tip! I understand it can be overwhelming to decide what place to visit at Tokyo. The Palace with a good meal seem like a good idea. #TPThursday

    1. It's become my stopover tradition- train into town, one park, a little exploring, lunch & back to NRT!

  2. Japan is a great destination and if I ever find myself with time for one thing to do, I'll take your advice.

    1. You definitely should! It also puts you right in the center of town & from there you can check out the other sights.