Higashi Gyoen


1-1, Chiyoda
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Open Hours
1-12: Tue-Thu: - 09:00-16:00 Sat-Sun: - 09:00-16:00
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About this sight

The sprawling Kokyo Higashi Gyoen Garden, or the Imperial Palace East Garden, covers 21 hectares and the 16km moat surrounding the garden and palace grounds is now a popular jogging path for the surrounding office crowd, and you are very likely to come across a jogger there at any time of the day. The grounds consist of a honmaru, or principal compound where the owner carried out his daily affairs, the ninomaru, or the second compound outside the honmaru where the castle owner met with guests, often feudal lords, and a portion of the sannomaru of the Edo Castle.

The Honmaru stands on the highest spot of the Higashi Gyoen and is where the remains of the Tokugawa castle are. When it was built in the early 1600s, the castle was surrounded by a series of whirling moats and heavily guarded by 23 watchtowers and 99 gates around its perimeter. The centre of the castle was where Japan’s tallest building stood at the time – the five-story castle keep would have offered a panoramic view of Edo then. This is where Tokugawa Ieyasu would have taken refuge if necessary. However, after a citywide fire in 1657 all that remains of the shogun’s castle now are a few stonewalls, gates, moats and the stone foundation of the keep.

A Japanese style garden now stands where the castle buildings used to be. The Ninomaru is laid out in a Japanese garden style with beautifully cultivated flora such as a plum grove, iris garden and wisteria, making for a pleasant walk in any season. The Sannomaru Shozokan contains special historical exhibitions of imperial collections worth checking out for those keen to delve into a bit of Japanese history.