The Japanese Imperial family is an altogether interesting bit of culture, especially for people who are not originally from Japan. They stand as the cultural figurehead of the state, but carry no governmental duties and functions. Still, they are revered and honored by the people, and they have that same aura about them that oozes royalty and more importantly, elevation and separation from the masses. This is why this move by the Imperial Household Agency to commemorate Emperor Akihito’s 80th birthday by providing special tours of the Imperial Palace – opening up to the public places which have been otherwise off-limits – is kind of a big deal.
Japan’s Imperial Household Agency will, for the first time, offer special visits to sections of the Imperial Palace that are normally forbidden to the public. “We will open places that have never been opened until now” to commemorate the emperor’s birthday, a spokesman revealed. These special tours will be done on the weekend of May 24 and 25, and possibly on another weekend in early October, although the latter date is yet to be announced. Only 600 visitors will have the chance to visit places in the palace that would have otherwise been off-limits over the two weekends. The agency said that they will be providing more details by February next year, and also by then accept applications from via postcard.
Built in 1968, the Imperial Palace is located in a total area of 22,949 square meters, and is found in the center of Tokyo on the former site of the famous Edo Castle of the Tokugawa shoguns. The eastern part of the palace complex is usually open to the public as a park except on Mondays and Fridays. But the main palace building and other sections are not open to the public. There are only a couple of times annually that the building can be viewed by the public from the garden outside, and that is on every Jan. 2 each year, and on the emperor’s birthday, when the royal family appears on the terrace of Chowa-den building, in front of an adoring crowd.
[via The Wall Street Journal]