There is more here than just The Gardens, there are four separate entities taking up just over seven square kilometers, all surrounded by a mote and high stone walls, retaining the feeling of old Edo.
To the North is the Kitanomaru Graden. To the West, taking up roughly 50% of the area is the Imperial Palace Grounds. To the South East is the Kokyo Gaien with its flawless fields of pine trees, and lastly to the East lies the Imperial Palace East Gardens, the focal point of this vast expanse.
Bordering Hibiya-dori, Kokyo Gaien inherits Marunouchi's quality of spaciousness and adds lush fields and pine trees. The West half is closed off by a low fence, preventing visitors from spoiling the meticulously kept grounds. However the East side is indeed open to the public, you can lie in the grass, have a pick nick, anything you want.
The Kokyo Gaien is probably the largest flat space you will encounter in all of Tokyo, it is vast, and the ultra wide gravel road that cuts through it seems to go on forever. Even if there was no East Gardens and only the Gaien, it would still be well worth the trip.
The fun begins by entering the East entrance at the Ote Gate. After passing through you will visit a small admissions office where they will give you a plastic ticket and then you're free to explore.
In the center of the Gardens are two tremendous fields. Visitors take refuge from the sun in the shadow of the towering pines which line the perimeter. On the west side of the perimeter there are several rare and exotic flora featured, various bamboos, maples and others.
The highest point in the Garden, this tower provides a fantastic view over the fields, and gives a panorama of the Marunouchi skyline and surrounding environs.
At last we come to the climax. The Ninomaru Garden is on the North East side and features a large pond with a land bridge. As with all other traditional Japanese gardens, the Ninomaru features many round azalea bushes, as well as water lilies and irises. Rows of azalea bushes line the sides of the gravel paths, as hordes of visitors and photographers drift into the garden. It is best to come as early as possible to beat the crowd; 9:00am is the best.
The most scenic and pleasant route to the Gardens is via the Marunouchi exit at the Tokyo JR station. Here you can walk down Gyoku-dori ave; the spacious boulevard that leads right up to the Kokyo Gaien.
For a slightly faster route you can take the Tozai line and get of at Takebashi, take the Imperial Gardens exit and then walk south along the perimeter until you reach the Ote Gate.
Admission: Surprisingly the admission is free, every other garden in Tokyo either has a 150 or 300 yen fee. (Weekends Shinjuku Gyoen is free)
Closed: The Gardens are closed on Mondays, Fridays and Holidays.
Open: 9:00am to 4:00pm. Last admission at 3:00pm.
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