|At this point in the walking tour, there are a few facts about
the Imperial Palace that are well worth knowing.
Major construction work on Edo Castle was initiated by the Tokugawa shogunate, the feudal government that brought
long-term stability to Japan. A civil war between the Tokugawas and the Satsuma-Choshu
alliance (a coalition of leaders of domains opposed to the shogunate) led to the shogunal government's
collapse in 1867, whereupon power shifted to Emperor Meiji. When the Emperor
moved from Kyoto to Edo and took occupancy of Edo Castle, the castle became the
Imperial Palace. Edo, then a city of one million with a concentration of power
and wealth, became the grounds upon which the Meiji government built the
capital of modern-day Japan.
The heart of the palace grounds, known as Fukiage Gyoen (Fukiage Garden, a lush
garden), contains the imperial living quarters. The
Kyuden is the palace complex where official business is conducted, and the offices
of the Imperial Household Agency are housed in another building. Although
Fukiage Gyoen is closed to the public, visitors who have made advance reservations
can take a guided tour around the area encompassing the Kyuden and the Imperial
Household Agency. Citizens are also invited to come and pay their respects on
two special days: during the New Year's season on January 2, and on the Emperor's
birthday, December 23.
The original Kyuden burned down during World War II, but it was rebuilt in 1968.
The new structure, which has two above-ground floors and one basement level with
a total floor area of about 23,000 square meters, draws on classical Japanese
architectural aesthetics. As the imperial headquarters for affairs of state, the
Kyuden complex serves as the venue for the inaugural ceremonies of prime ministers
and of Supreme Court chief justices; the investitures of ministers of state, ambassadors,
and Supreme Court justices; and the ceremonies for the presentation of credentials
for new ambassadors to Japan. And of course, foreign dignitaries are invited here
for lavish imperial court dinners.