If you are in Tokyo one of the must see spots is the Imperial Palace. Although you can not enter the palace itself (except on a couple of special holidays each year) the gardens surrounding it are open every day, except for Mondays and Fridays…. and it is free admission! No matter what season you are visiting the gardens always have something lovely on display. Spring and fall happen to be my favorite times to visit the gardens as the trees are beautiful but if you aren’t in Japan during those times it is still worth a visit.
One of our visits was in mid November and we only needed to wear sweaters. After walking around the gardens we been got pretty hot as the sun was shining that afternoon. We went right around noon and the gardens were pretty crowded. There were many tourists walking through but also many business men and women taking a walk on their lunch breaks. There were many with picnic bento boxes and lots of mothers taking their children for a walk so that they could escape their sky rise apartments and enjoy nature.
We got lucky during our visit and the Japanese Self Defense Forces Navy Band was playing in the middle of a large grassy area in the middle of the gardens. We walked right up close and picked out a great viewing spot on the lawn and had some snacks from out bento boxes. Many people stopped to enjoy the band and it was amazing how quiet so many people in a public park area could be!
One of the best things about the Imperial Gardens is that every area of the park has some type of beautiful showcase. There is a large koi pond, tea houses, the palace, spectacular floral landscaping, and wide curving walking paths throughout all the beautiful nature showcases.
If you plan on spending a lot of time in the gardens with children I would highly recommend bringing a pack lunch and drinks. The gardens are large and there aren’t many opportunities to buy anything once you are inside. Even though we arrived in mid November we really really hot after walking through the park in the sun and were really glad that we had brought snacks and drinks with us. It made for a much more enjoyable experience.
Also – expect to bring a bag with you for any trash that you make as trash cans will not be out around the park. You must pack all of your trash in your lunch box and remove it from the park. This is pretty common in Japan and we are always prepared to carry any trash we have all the way home sometimes!
If you aren’t up for packing lunch or just don’t have anything available as maybe you are staying at a hotel then don’t fret. You can buy some type of snacks to take in from nearby convenience stores. They always have containers to keep your trash in, and your food will be prepared and heated in the convince store. You will also be able to put chopsticks in your bags along with napkins and you will have an instant picnic ready to go!
There are also various restaurants within a short walk from the imperial gardens. Most of the high rise office buildings just across the street will have basement levels that are filled with small restaurants. If you arrive at lunch time you will have the option of buying prepackaged lunches ready to eat on the go or dining in instead,.
The gardens are closed on Mondays and Fridays
During the New Year holiday from December 28 until January 3 the gardens are also closed.
If it is a national holiday on a Monday or Friday the gardens are open but then will be closed on the following Tuesday or Saturday instead.
9am to 5pm from April to August
9am to 4:30 from September October
9am to 4:00 from November to February
9am to 4:30 during March
You can arrive 30 minutes prior to closing but no one is admitted after that.
the link below will take you to the official calendar in English to show the closing dates for the year.
If you are driving there are some parking options. We parked in a garage under a hotel a couple blocks away form the gardens. It is difficult to find parking in this area. There is not much parking on the sides of the streets and with all the government buildings located in this area some parking area are private.
If you are taking the train, which I highly recommend, it is pretty simple. Otemachi station on the Chiyoda line is close to the Gardens east entrance. However if you are wanting to visit Tokyo station and all the amazing restaurants and shops there, then the palace gardens are just about a 12 minute walk from there.
I think the walk from Tokyo station is worth it because there are so many great restaurants and shops to see as you walk over to the Imperial Palace Gardens. You can also get a close up view of some of the government buildings and are able to check out the outside of Tokyo Station.
On one of our walks from the station we stopped to watch a Japanese artist who was in his 70s. He was Sketching Tokyo station from a sidewalk across the street.We complemented his work and watched him from afar. Then he talked to us about how he had traveled throughout France teaching art lessons when he was young. His work was beautiful and he made it look effortless. I will have to look back through my photos and see if I can find this artist and his work. I will be sure to attach the photos if I can come across them.