Kyoto Imperial Palace: Place of Cultural and Historical Significance

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Given the beauty and majesty of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, it's hard to believe that at one point in time, it was in disrepair.  The token stipend that the Tokugawa Shogunate offered to sustain the Imperial family was barely enough to keep the walls from falling down, and members of the Imperial household lived more plainly than many artisans and merchants of the Edo Period (1603-1868).  It was not until the power of the Shogunate started to wane in the 1850s that renovation of the Kyoto Palace began as other parties vying for influence in the government started to demand that prestige should be returned to the Emperor.  In this way, the palace renovation was the first tangible sign of what was to come later with the Meiji Restoration.  
Of course, when the Meiji Restoration took place just ten years after the renovation, the Emperor moved to Tokyo to serve as the symbolic head of the country from the "East Capital," but, the restored Kyoto Palace remained the traditional household of the Imperial family and it still falls under the administration of the Imperial Household Agency.  Today, it is frequented more by tourists than the Imperial family and its guests, but it continues to stand as a piece of cultural heritage and historical significance for Japan.
If you are in Kyoto, viewing the Imperial Palace is a must.  This used to be a major hassle, where travelers would have to register with the Imperial Household Agency and apply for a permit to visit the grounds.  This changed last year, so now all you will need to do is show up at the public entrance.  I cannot express to you enough how much easier this makes visiting the Palace, and while it seems like this will be an enduring policy, things may revert back to the old system so take advantage of it while you can.
Admission is FREE and there a tours offered in Japanese, English, and Chinese at the following times:
Japanese: 9:30am, 10:30am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm (Duration: 50 min)
English: 10:00am, 2pm (Duration: 50 min)
Chinese: 10:00am, 2pm (Duration: 50 min)
Be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes and, of course, a camera to snap some of the great shots available (a few of my favorites are below).  I hope that you'll be able to take the time to see this important place along your travels in Japan!
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Mike B