Imagine if the US Government allowed road closures around the White House and then let people ride bikes around it. Sounds awesome but there would be detractors who would say it was a waste of tax payer dollars to close the roads and provide free bikes for people and then there would be the national security element and on and on and on which would ultimately lead to it never happening.
Good thing this is not the US.
Every Sunday, a roughly 3km set of road surrounding the Imperial Palace is closed to car traffic and 500 free bikes are available on a first-come-first-served basis. All it takes is a simple signature – I assume it is some sort of waiver – and you get to choose any bike you want.
It’s very simple to just hop on and ride and there are guards who point you in the correct direction. On the Sunday in November we were there, there is no one around to pressure us to finish our lap so we were able to ease into the ride and stop and take as many photos as we wanted.
After completing the loop and returning to where we first picked up the bikes, it was time to actually enter the Imperial Palace gardens, which just so happened to also be free! We couldn’t ask for anything more!
First up was touring the outer portion of the Palace and admiring the architecture and scenery. Just as it was with the Meiji Shrine, it is amazing to find a place as serene and beautiful that is also surrounded by a metropolis. We were drawn to the Palace gates – mainly because there were numerous tour groups gathered in front taking group photos so we decided to see what was going on. As it turned out, it was the main entrance for the Emperor and Empress – who are very rarely seen.
Then it was time to head inside and tour the gardens.
There really isn’t a whole lot more to tell. The photos speak better than I could hope to and physically illustrate the beauty and majesty that is the Imperial Palace and the Gardens inside.