Until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan was ruled by the powerful Tokugawa shogunate and Edo Castle was their seat of power for nearly 250 years. After financial and political upheaval in Japan, the shogun were overthrown and imperial power was restored. Tokyo became Japan’s new capital (over Kyoto) and the Imperial family, led by Emperor Meiji, built a new palace on the site in 1888.
Destroyed in World War II but rebuilt shortly afterwards, the Imperial Palace retains its original style. From Kokyo Gaien (Imperial Palace Outer Garden) you can see the stone bridge over the moat at the entrance to the inner palace grounds. The palace buildings and inner gardens are not open to the public, however, and visitors must arrange (in advance) for a guided tour with the Imperial Household Agency.
The Outer Garden (Kokyo Gaien), the East Garden (Kokyo Higashi Gyoen) and Kita-no-maru-koen Park are all open to the public free of charge. In the East Gardens a few remnants of the original Edo Castle remain including the foundation of the castle tower, entrance gates and several guardhouses. There’s also a lovely Japanese garden here. They are a breath of fresh air in busy central Tokyo.
For reservations to view the palace buildings and inner gardens go to: sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/order/index_EN.html