Tokyo Imperial Palace

Tokyo Imperial Palace

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Tokyo Imperial Palace is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park-like area located in the Chiyoda area of Tokyo close to Tokyo Station and contains several buildings including the main palace, the private residences of the imperial family, an archive, museum and administrative offices. It is built on the site of the old Edo castle. The total area including the gardens is 3.41 square kilometres (1.32 sq mi). During the height of the 1980s Japanese property bubble, the palace grounds were valued by some as more than the value of all the real estate in the state of California.

After the capitulation of the Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration, the inhabitants, including the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, were required to vacate the premises of the Edo Castle. Leaving Kyoto Imperial Palace, on 26 November 1868 the emperor arrived at Edo castle, made it to his new residence and renamed it to Tōkei Castle (東京城 Tōkei-jō?). At this time Tōkyō had also been called Tōkei. He left for Kyōto again, and after coming back on 9 May 1869 it was renamed to Imperial Castle (皇城 Kōjō?).
Previous fires already destroyed the Honmaru area containing the old donjon (which itself burned in the 1657 Meireki fire). On the night of 5 May 1873, a fire consumed the Nishinomaru Palace (formerly the shogun's residence), and the new imperial Palace Castle (宮城 Kyūjō?) was constructed on the site in 1888.

In the Meiji era, most structures from Edo Castle disappeared. Some were cleared to make way for other buildings while others were destroyed by earthquakes and fire. For example, the wooden double bridges (二重橋 Nijūbashi?) over the moat were replaced with stone and iron bridges. The buildings of the Imperial Palace constructed in the Meiji era were constructed of wood. Their design employed traditional Japanese architecture in their exterior appearance while the interiors were an eclectic mixture of Japanese and European elements fashionable in the 19th century. The ceilings of the grand chambers were coffered with Japanese elements; however, Western chairs, tables, and heavy curtains furnished the spaces. The floors of the public rooms had parquets or carpets while the residential spaces used the traditional tatami mats.
The main audience hall was the central part of the palace. It was the largest building in the compound and was where guests were received for public events. The floor space was more than 223 tsubo or approximately 737.25 m2 (7,935.7 sq ft). In the interior, the coffered ceiling was traditional Japanese-style, while the floor was parquetry. The roof was styled similarly to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, but was covered with copper plates (to make it fireproof) rather than Japanese cypress shingles.
In the late Taisho and early Showa eras, more buildings constructed of concrete were added, such as the headquarters of the Imperial Household Ministry and the Privy Council. These structures had a more modern appearance with only token Japanese elements.
From 1888 to 1948, the compound was called Palace Castle (宮城 Kyūjō?). On the night of 25 May 1945 most structures of the Imperial Palace were destroyed in the Allied fire-bombing raid. It was from the basement of the concrete library that Emperor Showa (Hirohito) declared the capitulation of Japan on 15 August 1945, ending World War II. Due to the large-scale destruction of the Meiji-era palace, a new main palace hall (Kyūden (宮殿?)) and residences were constructed on the western portion of the site in the 1960s. The area was renamed Imperial Residence (皇居 Kōkyo?) in 1948 while the eastern part was renamed East Garden (東御苑 Higashi-Gyoen?) and became a public park in 1968.

The present Imperial Palace encompasses the retrenchments of the former Edo Castle. The modern palace Kyūden (宮殿?) for various imperial court functions is located in the old Nishinomaru, while the residence of the emperor and empress is located in the Fukiage Gardens.
Except for Imperial Household Agency and the East Gardens, the palace is generally closed to the public. Each New Year (January 2) and Emperor's Birthday, the public is permitted to enter through the Nakamon (inner gate) where they gather in the Kyuden Totei Plaza in front of the Chowaden Hall. The imperial family appears on the balcony before the jubilant crowd and the emperor normally gives a short speech greeting and thanking the visitors and wishing them good health and blessings.
The old Honmaru, Ninomaru, and Sannomaru compounds now comprise the East Gardens, an area with public access containing administrative and other public buildings.
The Kitanomaru Park is located to the north and is the former northern enceinte of Edo Castle. It is a public park and is the site of Nippon Budokan Hall. To the south are the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace (Kōkyo-gaien), which are also a public park.
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