Kyoto Imperial Palace

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.

Kyoto Imperial Palace
Endless gravel roads inside the palace grounds
Kyoto Imperial Palace
More gravel roads…
Kyoto Imperial Palace
I don’t remember what this building was
Kyoto Imperial Palace
The ceremonial Shinshinden through the Jomeimon gate
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Shinshinden building
Kyoto Imperial Palace
The Shinshinden building used for enthronement ceremonies. It’s pretty cool, actually.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
The Imperial Throne


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.

Read: Why Todaiji is my favourite attraction in Japan

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.

Kyoto Imperial Palace


  1. I was scrolling through your posts and this one stood out to me. I actually lived right next to this garden for a year and didn’t even end up visiting before I left? at first I wanted to save it till later because it was a pain of a process to visit but even after it became free, I never felt the urge. Definitely more interesting things to see in Kyoto!

  2. I’d imagine that if you were native, you’d look at this place the way we westerners look at old, abandoned castles. More about the history of the place than the actual place.

    • You might be right. Japanese people might have a better understanding and appreciation for it. It’s not always about being visually impressive, after all.

  3. Wow, so much gray with those gravel roads. What must it be like on an overcast day with gray gravel against gray skies? But other than that, history is great and free is always nice! 🙂

  4. Hmm at least that is a frank narration of your experience and thoughts after re-visiting the palace. You mentioned it before so I thought I would ask, how did you end up breaking your ankle? I do not know the word that describes the pain that can surface from a memory linked to the time when you had the injury. Is there such a word even? xx

    • One night I was snowboarding down a small run that wasn’t lit and fell over a small ditch. It was a very small bank, but big enough that it stopped my board while I kept going forward and broke my ankle sideways. I very painfully and very stupidly tried to do one more run, then I had to call it quits. I don’t know if there is a word for for connecting pain and memories.. I feel like there must be, but I can’t think of what it is.

      • If you get to know the word, I would love to add it to my memory bank too. That snowboarding accident sounds awkward and painful. I mean to break the ankle or any part of the body indeed. But then you got guts to make another go of it!

        • Trying to go again was a bad idea. I slid down on my butt because it hurt too much to stand or move. Then to top it off, I limped around on it for two weeks before seeing a doctor because I was a stubborn teenager. To this day, I think that’s why it didn’t heal correctly and still hurts once in a while. I’ll let you know if I think of the word that may or may not exist.

          • It is the belief of youth (and as a teenager it is especially pronounced) that nothing can go wrong with her that was at play there. The ‘you now’ can see it clearly as the ‘then you’ possibly could not.

          • I should have handled the situation much differently, yes. Ah well. It didn’t kill me. I don’t think it made me stronger. At least not my ankle, but I didn’t die 😀

  5. Thanks for the warning. I have been to Kyoto twice and not made it there – so much else to see! I even stayed at the Palaceside once, but I was limping on a badly sprained ankle at the time – and discovering that Japan was not exactly handicapped friendly.

    • Oh no, we have both been to Kyoto with ankle problems. I got to take a bunch of taxis while the rest of my group walked 🙂 I’ve been to Kyoto quite a few times since the first time, so I thought I should the Imperial Palace a second try. There really are so many interesting things to see in Kyoto. Do you have a favourite?

      • Possibly Koto-In, it was so low key and serene. But I had a wonderful experience when my Global Greeter took me to a moon viewing ceremony.

        • It must be low key, I have never heard of it before. I checked a few images though, and it looks pretty. It was close to where I just was, so too bad I didn’t know about it before. It’s alright, I’m sure I’ll be back to Kyoto. Thanks for sharing a new place with me. Moon viewing sounds pretty from a temple.

  6. Well not a lot of decorations now are there? but having said that – there are places like that no? where you have to go because, well it’s an important heritage to the city you are in… But then crutches and this kind of place, not the funniest either – maybe you did keep that experience in your head as well 🙂 I’d love to go to Kyoto!

    • Outside of the Inner Palace area, no, there’s not much to look at. It’s such a big space too, it could probably be turned into a nice park. But maybe that would detract from importance of the place. I wonder if being on crutches the first time cast it in a bad light for me. It’s really not a terrible place, but I wasn’t completely wowed either.

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