New Years Visit to the Japanese Imperial Palace

Twice a year, on January 2nd in celebration of the New Year and on December 23rd which is the current Emperor Akihito’s birthday, the inner section of the Japanese Imperial Palace opens to the general public to tour a portion of the Imperial grounds and hear the Emperor give a speech. This year my family and I were excited to witness the Emperor and his family during the New Year’s speech. We signed up with a local tour group and rode the tour bus to near the Imperial grounds in Tokyo, Japan. Many people take the trains to near the Imperial Palace grounds.

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu is the traditional New Year’s greeting in Japan that means Happy New Year!

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High security measures are in place as the Imperial Family receives visitors into the inner Imperial grounds. Here we were in the first holding line before entering the inner Imperial grounds.
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This was the second holding area we had stood in before being allowed to enter the inner Imperial grounds.
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My youngest son was proud to wave the Japanese flag along with Japanese nationals and many other foreign visitors. These Japanese flags are handed out to everyone as they pass through security.
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An older Imperial Palace building on the Imperial grounds.
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 An Imperial guard.
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Sakuradamon Gate
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20″ thick bullet proof glass at the Chowaden Balcony (part of the Chowa-den Palace) that the Emperor and his family stand behind.
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The beginning formation of the crowd of the 11 o’clock Emperor’s speech.
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A picture of my daughter and I waiting to hear Emperor Akihito and see his family.
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Our view during Emperor Akihito’s speech.
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As the Emperor and his family entered the Cowaden Palace balcony the crowd waved their Japanese flags and shouted, “Bonzai, Bonzai, Banzai!” over and over again. Banzai means “live a long life’.
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This is a more accurate account of what we saw during the arrival of the Emperor and his family’s arrival. Once Emperor Akihito started his speech the Japanese flags were lowered and everyone was very quiet and respectful in the crowd. As soon as the Emperor’s speech was over, the waving of the Japanese flags and the shouts of “Bonzai” resumed.
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Imperial guard at the Babasakimon intersection.
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A swan swimming in the moat that surrounds the Imperial Palace.

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A map we were given during our tour.
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Random facts of a few Imperial Palace structures and the other details.
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Genealogy chart of the Japanese Imperial family given to us on our tour.
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