I arrived at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo intending to take a walk through the palace’s East Gardens but when I got to the eastern side of the palace grounds I found that there were security guards everywhere and my intended entrance had been blocked off. A river of people was streaming towards one of the palace’s other entrances and I decided to join them. There was clearly something going on at the palace but I had no idea what it was. After going through a security checkpoint I continued following the crowds through a section of the palace that is normally off-limits to the public except for guided tours.
When I reached the heart of the palace’s East Gardens I saw why everyone else was at the palace that day. A small temple complex had been set up in the gardens, and I would soon learn that this complex was called Daijokyu. These buildings were completed a few weeks earlier and had been used for an important ceremony that takes place when a new emperor ascends to the throne. Inside a nearby tent I found a scale model of Daijokyu on display.
After looking around the exhibits inside the tent I went back out and joined the line of people moving slowly towards the front of the Daijokyu complex. Visitors cannot set foot inside Daijokyu but are allowed to take photos of the exterior. What happens inside the buildings during the ceremony is apparently a secret, with only the emperor and a few other people knowing the full details of what takes place. The Daijokyu complex would remain open to the public until December 8, after which the buildings were demolished and removed from the palace grounds.
Once I was done circling around the exterior of the Daijokyu complex I spent some time on the original purpose of my visit, which was to see the East Gardens area of the palace. Along with nice garden areas you can also find buildings used by the government agency that manages the affairs of Japan’s Imperial Family. The East Gardens were busier than normal due to all the people that had shown up to see the Daijokyu complex but wandering around that part of the palace was still a nice way to spend part of an afternoon.