Friday 24 May 2013

Rubbing shoulders with Royalty......nearly - Japanese Imperial Palace and Jiyugaoka

You might remember in one of my posts a few weeks (Lost in Tokyo) ago that I had booked a tour of the Imperial Palace after missing out on going into one of the public gardens at the palace.  Well the day finally arrived!

It was a nice sunny 28 degrees on Wednesday so I threw on the shorts and t-shirt again and jumped on the train to make the trek to the Palace.  The first thing I noticed on the train was this advertising sticker.

Nova is the company that I used to work for when I lived here previously.  I didn't consider working for them again this time as due to dodgy business practices, they went bankrupt a couple of years after I left, and a lot of teachers were caught out by them, and a lot of students (including some of my old students) lost a lot of money.  They were bought out by another company and now operate on a much smaller scale.  And I never really liked that pink bunny mascot of theirs!

I arrived at Otemachi station and made that long familiar walk underground......

that I had made a few weeks ago and surfaced at the same place.  It was a beautiful sunny day, the perfect day to be outdoors.

I lined up and when my turn came, showed them my ticket for the tour and made my way inside the Palace grounds.

We were guided into a large room where we watched an introductory video and a pre-tour briefing (during which the guy must have cracked a couple of jokes as most of the people laughed on a few occasions.  Unfortunately his humour was lost on me though).  What was great about the tour though was that I was given an audio device and at various spots along the way, the tour guide would say on his megaphone "English guide number 8..........English guide number 8" and I would hit number eight and play and I would get an English commentary of what we were looking at!  It was great.  We then headed out and were asked to form four lines and we proceeded of in an orderly fashion.  The four lines structure didn't last very long and soon people were wandering along eight and nine wide!

The first place we walked pace we stopped at was a wall that had the names of the old shogun's families engraved in them.

They are mostly faded away now, but there were a couple still remaining.

Next we came to Fujimi Yagura (Mt Fuji viewing keep).  It is also known as the "all-front sided" keep as it looks the same on ll sides.  It is one of three remaining keeps in the castle grounds.  There used to be eleven.  It is said that on clear days, Mount Fuji could be seen from this keep, thus the name.

I love the old style Japanese architecture, and I don't think I will ever tire of looking at these kinds of buildings.

We continued on our way and next up was the Imperial Household Agency building.  This is where the administrative functions of the Imperial Palace takes place, and some say that this is where the real power is located, not the Palace itself.  

Having said that, however, the Japanese Royal family is a symbolic one as they don't have any political power.  They are, however, widely respected and admired by the Japanese, and they come across as a polite, humble, gently and kind people.  They are also very well behaved, not like some other Royal families around the world.  No naked parties in Las Vegas hotel rooms etc, and a lot of other Royal families could take a page out of their book!

A little further on was the Palace itself

It has been rebuilt a number of time throughout it's history as it has, unfortunately, been destroyed a number of times, the most recent rebuild occurred after it was destroyed by bombs near the end of World War II.  It now consists of 7 buildings, 2 floors above ground and one below ground.  The total area of the Palace is 23,000 square metres and is used not only as the official residence of the Royal family, but also for receiving state guests and official state receptions and functions.  Also, every year on the Emperors birthday and New Years Day, the Palace Gates are opened to the public and people gather in the plaza above to see the appearance of the Emperor and the rest of the Royal family.

On the other side, there is a bridge called Nijubashi.  On one side of the bridge is the historical Nihonbashi (also featured in a previous post),

and on the other side of the bridge is Fushimi Yagura, another historical keep.

This keep was dismantled and brought from another of the Royal Palaces and reconstructed at this one.

There was about 100 people in the tour group, and being such a nice day, everyone was enjoying themselves.

The grounds are quite beautiful, have a lot of trees and being spring, some of the bushes were in bloom.

This area is called Lotus moat (Hasuikebori).  In summer, the lotus flowers are in full bloom.

And here is our tour guide entertaining the kids at the front of the group.

And it was here that the tour finished.  It was a really interesting tour which I recommend to anyone.  You can book the tour here (  I walked back out through the gates extremely satisfied.

My day was far from over, however.  For the past few weeks I have been promising a friend that I would go and visit a shop that he owns in an area called Jiyugaoka.  My friends name is Yasunari.  He is a fashion designer by trade and he was a cutllier who worked for the designer who designed clothes for the Royal family.  He has since left that designer, designs his own items now, and owns this shop.  The shop name is Earthia.Wisteria (  The shop is there to showcase fine craftsmanship.  A lot of the items there are one-of-a-kind items that would be at home in museums.  Many of the products are from Japan, but some also are from other countries such as Egypt, Thailand etc.  I hope my photos do credit to how amazing the items he stocks are, as they are quite amazing.  I would love to show all of the items in the shop as they all are quite impressive, but I will show a few and leave the shop website to display the rest.

This is the shop front.

I'll let the pictures do the talking now!

Incredible detail.

A handbag made from bamboo!

A seat in the shape of a hand!

Very high quality speakers.

Some amazing statues and figurines.

Amazing jewelry!

Ivory is amazingly difficult to bring into Japan, but Yasunari has permission to do so.

Black Ocean pearl jewellery.

This looked amazing!

Sun catchers.

These next few photos are of lamps that were made in Egypt.  They are absolutely stunning and one day soon I hope to have one of them in my room!

Specifically, this one!

This lamp was completely hand crafted!

And finally, one of Yasunari's own works.

I am not really a fine craft kind of guy, but I was seriously impressed with the items on display.  They were absolutely amazing!

While at the shop, Yasunari and I sat down and enjoyed dinner together.

Curry Udon for me and soba for Yasunari.  An amazing dinner to finish off an amazing day!
I went home completely satisfied that my day was complete!

Well, that's it for this week.  Thanks again for reading, and I will see you again next week for another adventure!

Take care.


  1. thank you for this article including Earthia.Wisteria!
    i also posted an article that you kindly visited Earthia.W to my shop weblog.
    basically, thats been written in Japanese cos most of the readers r Japanese, but in that, i wrote a message to you in English as a gratitude, so pls read that in your free time.
    anyway, thank you again, and see you!

    1. Hi Yasunari,
      I have Google chrome which can translate websites for me, so I was able to understand what you wrote.
      Thanks for your kind words, I really enjoyed the visit and look forward to seeing you again soon.

  2. Hi Jason,
    I can see how you never run out of things to do. I feel like that in Cummins, so my head would probably explode in Tokyo!! Yasunari's shop looks really cool...The black pearl piece is amazing and the purple light in the group of three is gorgeous! Are the lamps that you like leadlight lamps? I have a friend who makes them but they are more a traditional shape.
    Have a great day!

  3. Also...about your new blog header that your bike? If it is...hope you walked home!! :-)

    1. Hey Nat,

      I wish that bike in the background was mine, it looks nice!
      The lamps that I like are mosaic style, rather than leadlight. I think he does have one or two leadlight lamps there too.
      I'm glad you're still enjoying the blog!
      Take care.

  4. I really look forward to reading your blog each week. It's really interesting and reminds me of what an amazing world we have out there. Sometimes we don't think about that when we're caught up in the hectic routines of everyday life...

    1. Nat, you are right. So many people say that you should explore your own backyard before you explore the rest of the world, but I see it differently. I think that Australia is Australia and the people and the culture is the same all across the country. I prefer to visit somewhere different and with different people and different culture to learn more about the world.
      Thanks so much for continuing to read. I am continually stunned by the numbers of people who continue to read what i have to say!
      Take Care.