The Imperial Palace or 皇居 Kôkyo
is the home of H.M. the Emperor of Japan
. It is located in Chiyoda Ward
, in the center of Tokyo
. Before the Meiji Restoration
, the site of the Imperial Palace was occupied by Edo Castle
, the headquarters of the bakufu
of Tokugawa Ieyasu
: during that period, the Emperor lived at a palace in Kyoto
, now called the 御所 Gosho
The first palace, completed in 1888, was destroyed during the bombing of Tokyo in 1945, and was not fully restored to its present splendor until 1968.
It's the best real estate in Japan by far... over a kilometer from east to west and nearly two from north to south, adjacent to Tokyo Station, Kasumigaseki, and Nagatachou, and within a stone's throw of Akihabara, Ichigaya, and Nihonbashi. William Gibson once characterized the Palace as a "black hole" in the middle of the lit-up Tokyo metropolis.
The western grounds of the palace are closed to the public: the closest you can get to the Emperor's house without his express permission is Nijubashi, a bridge across the moat separating the Emperor's private domain from the public gardens to the east. Nijubashi itself is closed 363 days a year, and you can only set foot on it on January 2 for New Year's, or December 23 for the Emperor's birthday, when the Imperial family come out on their balcony to wave at the cameras below.
The Imperial Palace is managed by the Imperial Household Agency, a cabinet-level department. Their Japanese website is at www.kunaicho.go.jp. Sadly, there is no official English website for the Palace.