April 17, 2004
by KAWAHARA Naomi; KONDO Kasane
The Imperial palace grounds are now popular as a place for people to relax. Many enjoy reading, jogging, walking or sitting among the trees and flowers that change color each season. There are actually about 50 thousand trees planted in the grounds.
During the spring and autumn, the Imperial palace is opened to the public for a limited period, and this is when you can view this precious, magnificent palace.
In 794, the Gosho was located about 2 kilometers west of the place it is situated in now.Due to several burning downs of the Imperial palace, the residence of a noble, Sekkan substituted for it for a while. Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi,Tokugawa Ieyasu, all repaired and rebuilt it, but after a disastrous fire in 1227, it was never to be reconstructed in the same place. The present Gosho derives from one of the Higashinotoin Tsuchimikado-den palaces, and dates from when Emperor Kogon was enthroned during the Nanboku-cho era in 1331. It was the location of the throne for Japanese emperors for 540 years until the move was made to Tokyo.
Shishin-den (Coronation Hall)
is in the main palace building of the Gosho, and is the place where important ceremonies are held, for example, that of succession to the throne.
Seiryo-den (Emperor’s former residence)
is the ordinary residence of the emperor. It is a place that was rebuilt with every change of emperor.
Kenrei-mon (Kenrei Gate)
is located at the southern end of the Gosho, and is only opened when the Japanese emperor or foreign heads of state visit on important or state occasions.
Hamaguri-Gomon (Hamaguri Gate)
is well known to all Japanese who come to the Imperial Park. This is where a memorable event in history happened in 1863. A one day battle between the Shogunate and Choshu took place in Kyoto that was short but very destructive, as the flames of war covered most of the city and lasted for three days. Bullet marks from the conflict remain on the gate to this day. Hamaguri means ‘clam’. It is so named because the gate was opened for the first time in 1788 long after being built in 1708, when a great fire broke out in Kyoto city.
Sarugatsuji (Monkey Corner):
Northeast is considered an unlucky direction for the Imperial palace, so there is a symbolic guardian monkey placed under the roof on that corner of the building. You will see the monkey is encased in wire gauze. This is because the monkey may do evil to passersby at night, making it necessary to confine it.
Sakura-matsu (Cherry Pine tree):
The seeds of the cherry naturally take root in the pine tree. It is said that the pine lives for 100 years, and the cherry for 40 years. The tree fell down in 1998, but the blossom remains. This is the reason it stays untouched.
Kamon (Heraldic Symbol):
The heraldic symbol of the imperial family is the chrysanthemum. You can see this mark on every roof in the Gosho. It was laid down that the Imperial family’s chrysanthemums have 16 petals and the Imperial households possess 14.