Kokyo (皇居)

Kokyo (Imperial Palace) is the residence of the Emperor during normal times.


These days, the former site of Edo-jo Castle in Tokyo is called Kokyo, which was formally called Kyujo (place where the Emperor lives) but the name was abolished after World War II.
The name in English is 'The Imperial Palace.'
It includes 'Gosho,' where the Emperor lives, 'Kyuden,' where various public events and government affairs are conducted, and the office building of the Imperial Household Agency. Refer to the item of Kokyo in Tokyo.

Kokyo in Kyoto was called Kyoto Gosho, Kinri (Imperial Palace), and Dairi (Imperial Palace) and, after the Tokyo Gyoko (Emperor's going out to Tokyo) of the Meiji Restoration, became empty and came to be called the Kyoto kogu Imperial Palace after it came to be maintained under the Emperor's order.
The name in English is 'Kyoto Imperial Palace.'
Shishin-den Hall (hall for state ceremonies), (Seiden (main palace)) of the highest social status which has handed down the style of the Heian period, and Tsune-goten (private palace), which was the place for daily life, have been maintained. Refer to the item of Kyoto Gosho.

There are such a large number of popular names for Kokyo (Imperial Palace) as Dairi, Gosho, Ouchi, Ouchiyama, Kokonoe, Kyuchu, Kinchu, Kinri, Momoshiki, Murasaki no niwa, Kogu, Kojo, Kyujo, Yomogigahora, Omiya, Kumo no ue, and Kumoi.


The word, 宮 (Miya) is made of 家 (ya '屋') and the honorific title (Mi '御'). It started as a word meaning a residence of a person in a high position and over time came to mean a palace of the Emperor or the Imperial Family. In ancient times, Imperial residences were relocated by generations and Kokyo referred to a palace which was called Miya. "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters) and "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) describe that many palaces were located in the southeast part of the Nara Basin from the 4th century to the 6th century.

Asuka no miya (Imperial Palaces in Asuka)

During the period of approx. 100 years from 592, when Emperor Suiko ascended the throne at Toyura no miya Imperial residence, to 694, when Empress Jito transferred the capital to Fujiwara-kyo (the ancient capital of Fujiwara), Imperial palaces were located in a concentrated manner in and around the Asuka region, which was in the south of Nara, so it is sometimes called Asuka-kyo (the ancient capital of Asuka). Some of the Imperial Palaces as above were Oharida no miya (603-630), Asuka no Okamoto no miya (630-636), Itabuki no miya (643-655), Nochi no Asuka no Okamoto no miya (656-672), and Asuka no Kiyomihara no miya (672-694). Some of the large-scale residences at the time have been found. Those were Hottate bashira (earthfast post) structures which were built with posts fixed at their bases in holes dug into the ground. Among these, major structures after the 7th century characteristically made their south side the front.

Later, Miyako (capital) came to be constructed under the influence of the Chinese dynasties, and the Emperors settled down in Dairi (Imperial Palaces), which were taken up as Kokyo. The central government office including Chodo-in (an office at the Heijo-kyo Palace), the center of affairs of state, was built side by side with Dairi, and the complex was collectively called Kyujo.

Naniwa-kyo (Osaka), Fujiwara-kyo (Nara), Heijo-kyo (Nara), and Heian-kyo (Kyoto) all served as miyako.

From the Heian period to the Edo period

Heian-kyo was established by Emperor Kanmu in 794. Dairi was destroyed by fire in 960 and until reconstruction, Reizei-in imperial villa was taken up as the temporary Kokyo. Dairi was devastated again in 976, and Horikawa-dono mansion, the residence of FUJIWARA no Kanemichi, was taken up as the temporary Kokyo. Dairi in Heian-kyo frequently burnt down; residences of the retainers, including Sekkan (regents and advisers), and the maternal relatives were often taken up as the temporary Kokyo (Satodairi). Since the end of the Heian period, it came to be the usual practice to take up Satodairi as Kokyo even if Dairi existed. After the Kyujo (Dai-dairi (place of the Imperial Palace and government offices)) was destroyed by fire in 1227, Dairi was not reconstructed and wandered from Satodairi to Satodairi. After Emperor Kogen of the Northern Court ascended the throne at Tsuchimikado-dono Palace in 1331 during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, this Palace was taken up as Dairi. This was called Tsuchimikado dairi Palace, which came to be the predecessor of the current Kyoto Gosho.

After the Meiji period

Edo was renamed Tokyo in 1868, and when Emperor Meiji visited Tokyo and entered the Nishi no maru (a castle compound to the west of the main compound) of Edo-jo Castle (At present only a palace exists; it is a different place from the current site of the Fukiage gosho (old imperial palace of Fukiage)), the Castle was also renamed Tokyo-jo Castle and was taken up as the temporary Kokyo during the Emperor's visit to the east, after which the Emperor went back briefly to Kyoto.

In the following year, 1869, the Emperor visited Tokyo again, and Kyoto Gosho started to be maintained in 1877, which continues to this day. Refer to the item of Tokyo Tento (transfer of the national capital to Tokyo).

Kokyo in Tokyo

Kokyo in Tokyo is located at the former site of Edo-jo Castle, which was the castle of Tokugawa Shogun until the end of the Edo period. However, Gosho, where the Emperor lives, is located in the garden area attached to Edo-jo Castle, which was called Fukiage.

The former Nishi no maru (a castle compound to the west of the main compound) and Fukiage Garden are separated by the Dokan-bori moat. Since Edo-jo Castle as a castle refers only to Honmaru (the keep of a castle), Ninomaru, Sannomaru and Nishi no maru (a castle compound to the west of the main compound) and the garden area to the west of the Dokan-bori moat are, to be exact, not included in Edo-jo Castle, Gosho is not located at the former site of Edo-jo Castle.

The inner moat of Edo-jo Castle is situated further outside and surrounds the whole area, including Fukiage Garden. The palace is located at the former site of Nishi no maru, which is within the former Edo-jo Castle.

Although the whole area of Kokyo is located in the center of Tokyo, it is leafy and the sidewalk surrounding the moat enjoys high popularity among joggers. The address of Kokyo is 1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, which is popular as a registered address. (Zip code is 100-0001) The asset value of Kokyo as a national property amounts to \218.81 billion (Based on the Diet Report Information 'Fiscal 2003 Statement on Increase and Decrease and Current Total Value of National Property').

Kokyo is registered as one of the world landmarks on the satellite panoramic images program, Google Earth.


Edo-jo Castle was renamed Tokyo-jo Castle when the Emperor visited Tokyo in 1868, and was taken up as the Kokyo in Tokyo.

In 1869, the Emperor's stay in Tokyo was announced at his second visit to Tokyo and Tokyo-jo Castle was named Kojo (Imperial Palace).

Nishi no maru of Edo-jo Castle was burned down in 1873 and Akasaka Detached Palace was taken up as the temporary Kokyo.

In 1879, New Imperial Palace was decided to be built at Nishi-no-maru, and in 1888 Meiji Kyuden Imperial Palace was completed. After that, it was named Kyujo.

In the Meiji Kyuden Imperial Palace, Okukyuden, where the Emperor lived, was connected to the place for receptions/government affairs, which includes Okurumayose entrance, Hiroma (a large room occupying the full cross section of a building), Seiden (main palace), Hoo no ma Hall, East and West waiting rooms, Homeiden State Banquet Hall, and Chigusa no ma Hall. This Meiji Kyuden Imperial Palace was burned down by air raid in May 1945 during the Pacific War. After the destruction of the Meiji Kyuden Imperial Palace by fire, Emperor Showa/Empress Kojun lived temporarily in Gobunko (library) in the Fukiage Imperial Gardens and Kyuden was temporarily set up on the top floor (3rd floor) of the office building of the Imperial Household Agency.

After the War in 1948, the name, Kyujo was abolished and came to be called Kokyo.

For some time after the War, burned-out Kyuden was not reconstructed.
As for the reason, Sukemasa IRIE, who served Emperor Showa as Grand Chamberlain, described in his book that "Okami (Emperor Showa), after the Greater East Asia War, put a stop to reconstruction of Kyuden and so on burned-out in the war with the view of giving top priority to improvement of people's living standards, saying 'A new Kyuden should not be constructed when people have no houses to live in and are in poverty.'"

Around the time of the first stage of the reconstruction of Japan being completed during the period from 1955 to 1964, a move to reconstruct Kyuden got active, and on the basis of the report of the Council of the Imperial Palace Construction issued in 1959, construction of new Kyuden was started in the following year, 1960. Kyuden (what is called new Kyuden) was laid out to be separated from Gosho (Residence of the Emperor), unlike the Meiji Kyuden Imperial Palace, which was connected to Gosho. In 1961, Fukiage Gosho (the imperial residential palace), the residence of Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun, was completed adjacent to Gobunko in the Fukiage area in Kokyo. Construction of the new Kyuden was started at the former site of the Meiji Kyuden Imperial Palace in 1964 and completed in October 1968, and the Palace started to be used from April 1969. Fukiage Gosho was renamed Fukiage Omiya Palace as the residence of the Empress Dowager (Empress Kojun) after the death of Emperor Showa.

The present Emperor and Empress Michiko continued to live in Akasaka Gosho (current Togu Gosho (Crown Prince's Palace)) for some time after accession to the throne and commuted to the Imperial Palace, but started to live in the new Gosho from December 1993, which was built in a corner of the Fukiage area in Kokyo.

Facilities in Kokyo

Kyuden (Imperial Palace)
It has been used since April 1969. It is a steel-reinforced building of two stories above the ground and one underground story, amounting to 22,949 sq.m. in total floor space. The basic design was worked out by Junzo YOSHIMURA.

Omote Gozasho (the imperial office room) building
It consists of a room where the Emperor attends to his business (Omote Gozasho), rooms for Jiju (chamberlain), and so on.

Seiden (main palace)
Matsu no Ma (State Room)
It is the room of highest social status in the Kyuden, where the main regular ceremonies are held, including Their Majesties' New Year Reception, Ceremony of the Presentation of Credentials, Imperial Investiture, Ceremony of Appointment of Official with Imperial Attestation, Ceremony of Imperial Conferment of Decoration, Ceremony of the Kosho Hajime (Imperial New Year's Lectures), Ceremony of the Utakai and Hajime (Imperial New Year's Poetry Reading) and important ceremonies of the Imperial Family, including Choken no gi (Rite of audience) and Enthronement Ceremony.

Take no Ma (Audience Room)
It is used for ceremonies and events, such as meetings of the Emperor/Empress with foreign sovereigns/foreign government dignitaries or receptions by the Emperor/Empress of Japanese government officials and private citizens who are visiting Kokyo.

Ume no Ma Room
It is mainly used for ceremonies/events for the Empress (Empress birthday celebration, receptions by the Empress, and so on).

Homeiden State Banquet Hall
It is the largest hall in the Kyuden, where banquets with a large number of people to attend, including the Imperial court dinner and His Majesty's Birthday Reception.

Rensui dining room
It is used for small banquets, such as Court Luncheons, Court Dinners, and so on.

Chowa den Hall
It is a long and narrow building extending 163 m from north to south, which is used for multiple purposes, including lounge and places for hospitality and audience for visitors. It faces the Eastern garden where People's Visit to the Palace for the New Year Greeting is held, and on this occasion the Imperial Family members stand on the central part of the veranda of Chowa den Hall. On January 2, 1969, when Emperor Showa and other family members stood on the veranda of Chowa den Hall on the first New Year Greeting after the completion of the new Kyuden, someone tried to shoot the Emperor with pachinko balls. Although none of the Imperial Family members were injured, after this incident, the central part of the veranda of Chowa den Hall was covered by bulletproof glass.

Shunju no ma Hall
It is the second largest hall to Homeiden State Banquet Hall in the Kyuden and is used for receptions and audiences and so on for distinguished guests from foreign countries. After the Heisei period started, the chance of several types of receptions being held in this hall has increased.

Shakkyo no ma Hall, Matsukaze no ma Hall
These are halls adjacent to Shunju no ma Hall and are used as lounges for visitors.

Kita no ma Hall, Nami no ma Hall
These are halls to be used as lounges for visitors and so on.

Kitadamari entrance hall, Minamidamari entrance hall
These are entrance halls connected to North and South driveway aprons. Kitadamari entrance hall is sometimes used as a booking center. Between the Minamidamari entrance hall and the Seiden, there is a 70 m-long corridor, through which state guests and so on go from the Minamidamari to the Seiden.

North driveway apron, Middle driveway apron, South driveway apron
North driveway apron is located at the north side of Chowa den Hall, South driveway apron at the south side of Chowa den Hall, and Middle driveway apron on the basement of Chowa den Hall. The basement under the Chowa den Hall and the Eastern garden is used as an underground parking lot for visitors.

Corridor, Chigusa no ma Hall, Chidori no ma Hall
Gardens (Courtyard, Eastern garden, Southern garden)
The Eastern garden is used for People's Visit to the Palace for the New Year/the Emperor's Birthday Greetings.

It is the residence of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. Located in the Fukiage Imperial Gardens, its construction started in 1991 and it started to be used from December 8, 1993. The design was worked out by Shozo UCHII.

Fukiage Omiya Palace
Located in the Fukiage Imperial Gardens, it was constructed in 1961 as Fukiage Gosho and used as residence of late Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun. It was renamed Fukiage Omiya Palace and used as the residence of the Empress Dowager (Empress Kojun) after the death of Emperor Showa but has not been used since the death of Empress Kojun in 2000.

Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household
It is a facility constructed for Emperor Showa to conduct his biological research.

It is so extensively used in these days as a facility for the present Emperor to conduct his ichthyological research including goby and as a place to cultivate rice to be used in Niiname-sai festival (ceremonial offering by the Emperor of newly-harvested rice to the deities) for the year.

Momiji-yama Hill Sericultural Institute
It is a facility which was constructed in 1914 by the order of Empress Teimei and since then, the successive Empresses have reared silkworms. The silk products made of silkworms reared at Sericultural Institute are used for the ceremonial costumes of the Imperial Family and so on.

Kokyo Higashi Gyoen (the East Garden of the Imperial Palace)
It was opened to the public on October 1, 1968.

Tokagakudo (Imperial Concert Hall)
It was built in February 1966. It is a concert hall in commemoration of Empress Kojun's Kanreki (one's 60th birthday). It was named after 'peach,' Oshirushi (signature mark used by members of the Imperial Family to mark their belongings) and 'Toen,' Gago (pseudonym) of Empress Kojun.

Sannomaru Shozokan (The Museum of the Imperial Collections)
It was constructed to store the fine arts which were handed down in the Imperial Family and donated to the Government in June 1989. It opened on November 3, 1993.

Three Shrines in the Imperial Court (Kashiko Dokoro (Palace Sanctuary)/Korei den (Ancestral Spirits Sanctuary)/Shinden (shrine))
Attached to the Three Shrines in the Imperial Court, there are Shinka-den Hall, where the Niiname-sai festival is held; Ryokiden Hall, where mass or ceremony for the repose of a soul is held; and so on.

Office building of the Imperial Household Agency
Post Office of the Imperial Household Agency
Office building of Imperial Guard Headquarters

[Original Japanese]