April 2018


Our monthly online newsletter,"L'ESPACE".
L'ESPACE is a diverse French word that means place,area,cosmos,and gap.

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Let's Visit Tokyo's Urban Oasis - the Imperial Palace!

One spring afternoon Mari and Shaun have arrived at the outer peripheral road of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The two are chatting as they go for a jog.

It feels great to do the Imperial Palace run!
Shaun
One lap is five kilometers. There are no traffic lights, so we can run non-stop. It's hard to find a jogging route as good as this one.
Mari
We're right in the center of Tokyo, yet everything's so green! It's a great feeling to be surrounded by the beauty of nature.
Shaun
One reason the Imperial Palace run, is so popular is that we can take in the sights while we run. What do you say we go a little off the beaten path for a change and do some actual sightseeing? Shaun, have you ever been inside the Imperial Palace?
Mari
Now that you mention it, no. I've always run around the perimeter.
Shaun
Okay, today when we get to Otemon Gate, let's enter the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Did you know that the Imperial Palace used to be called Edo Castle?
Mari
Sure. This was where the shogun lived during the Edo Shogunate.
Shaun
That's right. The old Honmaru, Ninomaru and Sannomaru areas are now the East Gardens.
Mari
When did it change from the Shogun's castle to the Imperial residence?
Shaun
About 150 years ago. At that time the Edo Shogunate had endured for about 260 years but was drawing to a close. In 1968 the East Gardens were refurbished to serve as an attached garden of the Imperial Palace. It was then opened to the public. It's a popular place, because here you can imagine what it was like inside Edo Castle in the old days.
Mari

The two friends have arrived at the Otemon Gate of the Imperial Palace.

The East Gardens are on the other side of this gate. Otemon was the main entrance to Edo Castle. The daimyo, feudal lords, who arrived from every part of Japan to meet with the Shogun passed through this gate.
Mari
Wow, this is exciting!
Shaun
Up ahead you can see a bansho, or guardhouse. This is where the castle's security detail was housed. The daimyo had to pass through three of these bansho before they could meet with the Shogun.
Mari
That's some tight security.
Shaun
A little further ahead are the remains of what was the most important part of Edo Castle: Honmaru, which means “central bailey.”
Mari
It's so spacious! I haven't seen a lawn this big in ages.
Shaun
There was a large palace here in the old days. It was divided into the omote, the front area where political ceremonies were held; the nakaoku or middle area, where the shogun lived; and the o-oku, the living quarters for the hundreds or even thousands of women who served the Shogun, his wife and his heirs.
Mari
What a shame that nothing remains of it today. What's that big stone wall over there?
Shaun
That's the foundation of the old castle tower. At one time Edo Castle had the largest castle tower in all of Japan, but it was destroyed by fire. Today only the tower base stands, part of a project to reconstruct the tower.
Mari
Even the tower base is pretty tall by itself! The stonework is impressive.
Shaun
The top of the stone wall is an observation deck now. Would you like to go up and take a look? The view is amazing. Beyond the lush green of the Imperial Palace you can see the clusters of tall buildings in the Otemachi and Marunouchi districts. After that let's go see the remains of Ninomaru, the “Second Bailey.” There's a grove of trees that recalls old Musashino, and once we get past that there's a gorgeous Japanese garden.
Mari
Incredible! The East Gardens are enormous. It's so full of natural beauty and so quiet! It's just soothing to be here. What a great place to relax in!
Shaun
It's like an air pocket in the middle of the city, isn't it? I'm glad you like it.
Mari

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