After enjoying the beauty and openness of Heian Shrine, I headed over to Kyoto Imperial Palace. Kyoto Imperial Palace is a large 1.3 m by 700 m rectangle in the middle of the city. Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan before it moved to Tokyo. The Imperial Palace is the old living quarters and ruling palace of the old Emperors before the Meiji Restoration. Now it is open to the public as a tourist spot, but it has lost most of it’s former functions.
Recently I was in Kyoto for the weekend for a school thing. I had some time, so I did some sightseeing on my own. I arrived at the south east corner after walking from Heian Shrine. From the main street, the entire outside of the Palace is walled. Somewhere along the southern wall, I found an entrance and went inside.
Before I go on, let me explain that I have been to Kyoto Imperial Palace once before.
It was when I was in high school on an exchange trip. I remembered very little about that trip to Kyoto Imperial Palace, but I will be quite open and say that I remember it being boring.
Having had a snowboarding accident a few weeks earlier in Canada, I had a broken ankle and was in Japan on crutches. Thus, I couldn’t move as quickly as the others in my group, and the loose crunchy gravel was not the best surface for crutches. What I remembered from that trip was that the Palace grounds were huge, wide, and without much to look at.
Nevertheless, Kyoto Imperial Palace was near the place I needed to be for school this time, so I thought why not check it out one more time. See if my memory serves me correctly.
So I went inside from the southern exit, and I quickly found that my memories were correct. The Palace grounds are simply wide, long roads of gravel. There were patches of greenery with trees and benches, but they were not exactly nice places to sit and picnic, or whatever. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ugly, but it’s not overly beautiful either.
Now, I don’t want to sound unappreciative, but it didn’t completely wow me.
Inside the large rectangle there are several other walled sections. Walled sections inside a walled palace. I didn’t have enough time to see everything, so I headed up to the main palace section. The part where the Emperor did all his emperor stuff. Remember, it is over 1 km long, so it took a few minutes to get there.
I came to main entrance to the inner part of Kyoto Imperial Palace and went through a small security check.
I was given a tour number and set free. Not actually free though because there is one path that you are supposed to follow. The path runs counter clockwise and goes past several different halls and rooms.
I will say that the buildings are very large and very grand. Some of them are painted red, and others are white and black. It is easy to see that they were made for important people. However, it would probably be more interesting to have seen it when it was actually a place for royalty. There was also a cute little garden in the back. The inner part was more interesting that the outer section.
When I was here the first time, 14 years ago, I don’t remember if we went inside the inner palace or not. Though even if I did, I probably spent a lot of time looking at the ground so I wouldn’t trip on my crutches. The ankle that I broke still acts up from time to time, and it was hurting a bit while I was walking through the palace. What’s it called when you feel pain from something that happened a long time ago, and is triggered by something mentally?
Anyway, after handing back my tour number and leaving the inner Palace I went over to the cafeteria for a quick lunch before my school thing. I ordered curry udon, but it was not very tasty. I then headed over to the university for a school thing. It was 30 degrees this day, so needless to say, I was good and sweaty when I arrived.
Jennifer, would you recommend Kyoto Imperial Palace?
Maybe. I wouldn’t not recommend it. There is an interesting history, since it is the grounds for past Emperors, so that’s cool. The old wooden buildings are nice to look at, but not unique if you have seen other places in Japan.
Outside of the inner palace, there is not a lot to see. It seems like it takes a long time to get around because the scenery hardly changes. It’s free though. I would say if you are in the area or if you are really interested in Japanese Emperor past, then yeah check it out.
But in the end, the choice is yours, young grasshopper.
I walked to Kyoto Imperial Palace from Heian Shrine. It took about 30 minutes. You can also take the Karasuma Subway line from Kyoto Station to Imadegawa or Marutamachi Station. Probably a bus or two as well, but I don’t know which ones.
I stayed at the Palace Side Hotel.
I hope I am not the only one who was slightly underwhelmed by Kyoto Imperial Palace. But still, it was alright, and I don’t regret going twice. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.