Built on the site of Edo Castle and incorporating some of the gates, walls and structures
of Ieyasu Tokugawa’s massive fortified compound, the Imperial Palace is the residence
of the Emperor of Japan. Built in 1888 after a fire burned much of Edo Castle in 1873,
the Imperial Palace occupies the site of Tokugawa’s Nishinomaru Palace, which was
the residence of the Shogun. The Palace and gardens occupy some of the most
expensive real estate in the world, in the center of the Chiyoda area of Tokyo.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Castles are in the following Gallery (Direct Link) —

Photoshelter Castles of Japan Collection


Imperial Palace


Imperial Palace Moat 7357
1359 x 900 (500 KB)

Boating on the Imperial Palace outer moat, on the northern border in Kitanomaru Park.

(A thumbnail history of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogun who created Edo Castle).

The Imperial Palace (Kokyo) is located on the site of Edo Castle, built originally as Chiyoda Castle in 1457 by Ota Dokan. When Tokugawa received the Hojo’s Kanto provinces (after the Siege of Odawara by Toyotomi and his allies that broke the power of the Hojo clan), Chiyoda Castle was radically expanded and fortified into the largest and strongest castle in the world by Tokugawa Ieyasu, who later became the first shogun of a unified Japan. At its height, Edo Castle had 20 gates, 11 towers and 15 barracks. The main castle tower was 51 meters, the tallest in the history of Japan.

Tokugawa was an ally of Oda Nobunaga, a powerful daimyo of the Sengoku (Warring States) period who nearly succeeded in unifying Japan, but was forced to commit seppuku by a traitorous general at Honno-ji (his temple in Kyoto). Tokugawa gathered an army to attack Akechi (the general), but Toyotomi Hideyoshi had already killed him at the battle of Yamazaki.

Toyotomi was made Nobunaga’s heir and succeeded in unifying Japan in 1590 by attacking the last independent daimyo in Japan (the Hojo clan), who ruled the Kanto provinces where Edo is located. Ieyasu joined his 30,000-man army to Toyotomi’s 160,000-man army to besiege the Hojo at Odawara Castle. During this siege, Toyotomi offered Ieyasu the eight provinces they were about to take from the Hojo in exchange for the five provinces Ieyasu currently controlled (including his home province of Mikawa). This deal was strongly in Ieyasu’s favor, so he accepted, which gave Ieyasu the Kanto area after the Hojo surrendered.

Ieyasu had all of the Kanto daimyo supply him with labor and materials to build the strongest castle ever constructed in Japan (and the largest fortification ever constructed in the world). Because the Kanto area was isolated from the rest of Japan, once he had consolidated his power he was able to maintain autonomy and soon became the second most powerful daimyo in Japan. He was selected as one of the regents for Toyotomi’s five year old son, and after the death of Toyotomi, he was the most powerful man in Japan. He had only one rival for control of Japan: Ishida Mitsunari, who was powerful but not one of the regents. Almost all of Japan’s daimyo split into pro-Ishida and anti-Ishida groups. Of course, Ieyasu was anti-Ishida. This led to the biggest and most important battle of Japanese history: the Battle of Sekigahara.

Tokugawa Ieyasu was completely victorious at the battle of Sekigahara, and the Western bloc of Daimyo were hunted down and killed. Since Toyotomi’s son Hideyori had a lot of vassals who were in the Western bloc, he lost a lot of his territory when the land was redistributed, and his status was reduced. Tokugawa was now the defacto ruler of Japan. Three years later, he was given the title of Shogun by the Emperor, and started a 250 year dynasty called the Tokugawa Shogunate.

The Tokugawa Shoguns ruled at Edo Castle from 1603 until the 15th Shogun (Yoshinobu) was
forced to relinquish power to the Emperor in the 1868 Meiji Restoration which ended the Edo Period.


Imperial Palace Tayasumon 7359
1500 x 906 (491 KB)

Entering the Imperial Palace grounds from the north through Kitanomaru Park,
you have to cross several moats guarding the northern border until eventually you
come to Tayasu-mon, one of the original gates to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Edo Castle.
Tayasu-mon was already in existence in 1607 (the original date of construction is not
known), and it was reconstructed in 1636, making it the oldest of the remaining gates.
This is also the strongest castle gate ever built in Japan. It is a double gate with the gates
set at right angles, separated by a large courtyard (guarded by a contingent of warriors).


Imperial Palace Shimizumon Gate 7366
1500 x 1065 (585 KB)

This gate is also from the original Edo Castle.
It was rebuilt in 1658 after the great fire in 1657.
These two gates are among the earliest to use
the Masugatamon style (kouraimon outer gate,
inner courtyard and yaguramon inner gate).


Imperial Palace Shimizumon Gate 7373
1500 x 1035 (472 KB)

Shimizumon gate is next to the Shimizu moat. Shown is the Yaguramon, a two story gatehouse on a timber frame at a right angle to the first gate. Guards  were in both sides facing the open court and above the gate, with firing windows over the second gate and above the kouraimon.


Imperial Palace Shimizumon Gate 7372
1500 x 1065 (466 KB)

The view past the Kouraimon (first gate entering
the rectangular court) towards the Yaguramon.
The Yaguramon has a gallery for guards above
the stronger gate (center), facing into the court.
You can see the firing windows over the gate.


Imperial Palace Shimizumon Gate 7369
1500 x 1065 (397 KB)

Hikaebashira (roofed pillars stabilizing the gate
pillars from rams) and steps to the sentry platform
of the Kouraimon. The small window in the Yagura
offered warning of attack at the Kouraimon so the
guards in the Yagura could be ready to shoot.


Imperial Palace Inui-bori 7379
1500 x 994 (349 KB)

A view across the Inui-Bori (Northwest moat). In the Oriental Zodiac, which
is used for season, time and direction, starting from North, the 12 directions are:

Ne (rat) North, 12:00 midnight, Winter
Ushi (ox) North-northeast, 2:00 AM
Tora (tiger) East-northeast, 4:00 AM

U (hare) East, 6:00 AM, Spring
Tatsu (dragon) East-southeast, 8:00 AM
Mi (serpent) South-southeast 10:00 AM

Uma (horse) South, 12:00 noon, Summer
Hitsuji (ram) South-southwest, 2:00 PM
Saru (monkey) West-southwest, 4:00 PM

Tori (chicken) West, 6:00 PM, Autumn
Inu (dog) West-northwest, 8:00 PM
I (ee) (boar) North-northwest, 10:00 PM

The times (or directions) that are in-between two animals (e.g. 9:00 PM or Northwest)
are described with both animals’ names. In the case of 9:00 or Northwest, you are between
Dog (Inu) and Boar (I, or ee), so you use the name dog-boar for that time or direction, thus Inu-i.

I am almost certain that this is far more than you wanted to know. Almost...
Here is a link to more information. A lot of research goes into these pages.


Imperial Palace Matsu no oroka 7380
(Matsu no oroka = Great Pine Corridor)
1359 x 900 (603 KB)

The site of Asano’s assault on Kira that began the events of the 47 Ronin.
This tale is the Japanese national legend, as it outlines the Code of Bushido.

A powerful but corrupt Edo Castle official was to give instruction on court etiquette to
two daimyo from small domains who were to meet with the Shogun. He was angry that
they did not bribe him, and was rude to them. Kamei was about to kill him, but his retainers
secretly bribed Kira (the official), so Kira then acted reasonably towards Kamei but became more
enraged with Asano (the other daimyo) because he would not bribe him as well (Asano was a
strict Confucianist with strong moral values). Finally, after Kira publicly insulted Asano, he
drew his dagger and assaulted Kira, lightly wounding him before they were separated.

Because Asano assaulted Kira in the palace, he was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) and his lands and property were forfeit, plus his retainers would become masterless ronin (unable to work as samurai because they could not get their previous master’s permission). 47 of the more than 300 ronin planned revenge, even though revenge had been prohibited in this case. They swore a secret oath, and waited for an opportunity. Kira had fortified his residence and was well guarded to prevent revenge, so they dispersed and became monks and tradesmen. Oishi, the head ronin, even began acting oddly to assuage Kira and get him to remove his spies.

Nearly two years later, after several of the ronin in their roles as tradesmen had gained access to Kira’s house and learned the layout, the ronin met in Edo and planned the assault. They took the house from both sides and after killing and wounding nearly forty of Kira’s retainers, found the hiding official and offered him the option of committing seppuku. He refused, so they killed him with the dagger that Asano was forced to use on himself. They took Kira’s head to the tomb of Asano, then turned themselves in.

The shogunate officials were in a quandry. The ronin had followed bushido (warrior code) in avenging their lord, but defied the prohibition of revenge imposed by the shogun. The populace was behind the ronin. The Shogun finally offered them the option to perform seppuku rather than execute them as criminals. Their clothes and arms were taken to the temple where Asano is entombed, and where they were laid to rest.

This is a true story, and by their actions they cleared Asano’s name, made it possible for all of the other retainers of Asano to get employed again, and some of his lands and property were returned to his family (because Asano was no longer disgraced).

The Tale of the 47 Ronin is a very popular theme in Kabuki and Bunraku (puppet plays) as well as film and television.


Imperial Palace Doshin-Bansho 7386
1394 x 900 (600 KB)

One of the three remaining original guardhouses used by samurai
who kept watch over the Otemon gate and the retinue of visiting daimyo.

Doshin refers to a low-ranking official of the Edo Bafuku (feudal government).
Doshin did administrative, general affairs and police work. Bansho = guard station.


Imperial Palace Tatsumi Yagura 7398
800 x 1200 (319 KB)

A 17th c. Edo Castle watch-tower and a modern telecommunications tower.

The Tatsumi Yagura (aka Sakurada Yagura) is between the Kikyo and Otemon gates.


Imperial Palace Tatsumi Yagura 7399
1500 x 1065 (414 KB)

At the corner of the Kikyo-bori moat (near the Kikyo-mon gate) is Tatsumi Yagura (watch-tower).
This is one of three remaining keeps from the original Edo Castle (Fushimi-Yagura over Meganebashi
(the stone bridge shown below) is one of the other two). These are all Sumi Yagura (corner towers).


Imperial Palace Tatsumi Yagura 7401
1500 x 1065 (443 KB)

Tatsumi-niju-yagura is sometimes what this is called...
this refers to the fact that it is a two-story Yagura (tower).


Imperial Palace Tatsumi Yagura 7402
1359 x 900 (513 KB)

Yagura = tower, Tatsumi = stand + watch.

(Yagura were also used as defensive towers).
Edo Castle had 11 Yagura in the inner citadel.


Imperial Palace Tatsumi Yagura 7405
1386 x 900 (410 KB)

The Tatsumi and Fushimi Yaguras have always been outlying watchtowers, but  the three story Fujimi Yagura served as the tenshu when the fire of 1657 burned the main tower. Much of the rest of the castle was destroyed in  fires (1873 and WW II).


Imperial Palace Kikyomon Gate 7407
1500 x 1065 (474 KB)

One of the original gates of Edo Castle, the Kikyo-mon gate is one of the few remaining
from the Ninomaru (second bailey) of Edo Castle. It is also known as the Inner Sakurada-mon.
It leads to the Kokyo Higashi Gyoen (Imperial Palace East Garden) and Imperial Guard HQ.

(Doubled Bridge)

Among the most well-known bridges in Japan, the iron and stone bridges over the
Nijubashi-bori (doubled-bridge moat) used to be made of wood. They were replaced
with an iron bridge and a stone bridge in the Meiji era (1887-88). The iron bridge, when
it was made of wood, crossed the deepest part of the moat and was reinforced with
multiple layers of wood beams. It became known as Nijubashi (doubled bridge), so
the name refers to both bridges as a team, and to the iron bridge specifically.


Imperial Palace Tetsubashi 7408
1500 x 1000 (511 KB)

Tetsubashi = iron bridge (aka Nijubashi)

This image was originally shot for a 5 x 4 crop of the same width,
but I decided that I prefer this composition as a 3 x 2. The version in
the Photoshelter Collection shows more wall on the left (a 16 x 9 crop).

This shot was taken from a spot to the right of the corner of Nijubashi Moat.
If you stand at the end of the moat, the two bridges are in line. This is another
reason why the two bridges as a group are called Nijubashi (doubled bridge).


Imperial Palace Seimon-Tetsubashi (iron bridge) 7412
1500 x 1065 (520 KB)

Seimon-Tetsubashi = Main Gate Iron Bridge

The iron part of the bridge makes the shorter crossing
over the inner Nijubashi moat to the Main Gate (Sei-mon).
When the bridge was still made of wood, the section of the
moat that it spanned was very deep, requiring that the support
girders be doubled. (Niju means doubled, bashi means bridge).

Tetsubashi means iron bridge, and Ishibashi means stone bridge.
The stone bridge is supposedly the most photographed scene in Japan.


Seimon Gate Imperial Palace 7411
1346 x 1077 (420 KB)

The view across Meganebashi towards the Seimon (Main Gate). I was shooting
directly into the sun, but you can still see good detail on the bridge, and the
guards in front of the small guardhouses give a sense of the scale.
Those are very nice lamps on the bridge, in my opinion.


Imperial Palace Seimon-Ishibashi (Meganebashi) 7413
1500 x 750 (341 KB)

Seimon = Main Gate, Ishibashi = Stone Bridge, Meganebashi = Eyeglass Bridge

I have provided this image at 1500 x 750 for your personal use, without a watermark.


Imperial Palace Seimon-Ishibashi (Meganebashi) 7414
1500 x 1065 (452 KB)

This used to be a wooden bridge, but it was replaced with a stone bridge
during Emperor Meiji’s rule, when Edo Castle was rebuilt. The formal name
is Ishibashi, but it is popularly known as Meganebashi (eyeglass bridge).

This bridge leads across the moat to the main gate of the Palace.
In the right background over the bridge is the Fushimi-Yagura keep
(moved from Fushimi Castle by Tokugawa Iemitsu to Edo Castle).


Imperial Palace Kusunoki Masashige 7416
1500 x 1065 (292 KB)

Statue in Kokyogaien Park outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

A 14th c. samurai, Kusunoki Masashige fought for Emperor Go-Daigo in the attempt to overthrow
the Kamakura Shogunate. He epitomizes samurai loyalty, courage and devotion to the Emperor.

When a Loyalist general betrayed Go-Daigo and marched on Kyoto with a huge army, Kusunoki
suggested that they take refuge on a nearby mountain and let the general take Kyoto, then pounce on
him in the city where he couldn’t maneuver. Go-Daigo refused to leave Kyoto, and ordered Kusunoki to
engage the rebel in a pitched battle that would be certain death. Kusunoki left his death poem with his
son and went to do battle. When they were surrounded he committed seppuku with 600 of his troops.


Imperial Palace Kusunoki Masashige 7420
1500 x 994 (258 KB)


Imperial Palace Kusunoki Masashige 7422
1500 x 1065 (309 KB)

—  View of Edo  —
17th century folding screen

One of very few detailed representations of life around Edo Castle during the early Edo period,
this folding screen also has one of few faithful contemporary representations of the castle itself.
The screens are incredibly detailed, with over a thousand people and many details of buildings
and daily life in the bustling capital city of Edo, only recently expanded from a small castle town.

These are very highly detailed images. I have provided two M-sized detail crops, an SXL-sized
screen section, and the entire image of the right two screens. While these images are provided
using web-compression (c=9) rather than Portfolio compression (c=12), they are still large files.


View of Edo: Edo Castle detail M
1500 x 1200 (1029 KB)

A detail crop from the upper right of the right screen, showing Edo Castle’s 50 meter Tenshu.


View of Edo: Edo Castle detail SXL
4250 x 2400
(5066 KB)

The full width of the two screens showing the Edo Castle area.

This high-res image will open in a second window or tab,
allowing you to continue viewing this page while it loads.


View of Edo: Hibiya detail M
1000 x 1600 (909 KB)

Detail of the area just south of the castle,
near the current location of Hibiya Park.


View of Edo: Right Two Screens SXXL
4400 x 5975
(12.6 MB)

This high-res image will open in a second window or tab.

This was an incredible amount of work, both by the original
artist and by myself (it required assembly of a large number
of images and technically demanding Photoshop work). It is
one of the most exceptional Edo period folding screens.


Considered to be the most beautiful castle in Japan.
Click banner above to go to the Himeji Castle page.


Click banner above to go to the Nijo Castle page.


Click banner above to go to the Osaka Castle page.


Click banner above to go to the Okayama Castle page.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Castles are in the following Gallery (Direct Link) —

Photoshelter Castles of Japan Collection


Return to the Castles of Japan Index page


Return to the Master Index on the Japan Select page.