The imperial palace in central Tokyo is really beautiful. Atleast, that’s what I heard. Only the gardens were open since being an ordinary tourist does not grant you entrance to the actual palace, unless you happen to arrive on one of the two days when the palace is open to the general public. Still, you can visit Tokyo and not go catch a quick glance at the imperial palace, and to really check off the local controversies, there’s the Tasukuni Shrine not too far away, which most of my non-Japanese especially-Chinese friends absolutely despise (even though for Taiwanese – Lee Deng Hui’s brother is buried there).
The Japanese emperor, you have to hand it to the guy, has a really big palace set at a prime central location in a city where real estate prices are among the highest in the world even after the local real estate bubble burst. With no shortage of garden space, and a fort structure surrounded by water, it is a beautiful place to stroll through.
Once you get tired of fort walls, 5 minutes away is the Yasukuni Shrine.
To be completely honest, there’s not much to do there, unless you’re into army museums and old Japanese veterans paying their respects, but it makes for an interesting visit non-the-less, especially if you have a bit of the historical perspective on things and an insight into the controversy that follows.
If you want to read more :
- The Imperial Palace Gardens
- Tokyo Time: Shrine for the War Dead and A Lot of Wandering Around
- Detailed Travel Guide for Yasukuni Shrine
- Sumo at Yasukuni Shrine