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Imperial Household Agency. The best way to discover the Imperial Palace is to take part in one of the free tours offered by the Imperial Household Agency. There are four different tours: Imperial Palace Grounds, the East Gardens (Higashi Gyo-en), Sannomaru Shozokan, and Gagaku Performance (autumn only). Tour registration is required a day in advance; hours change according to the season. 1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Imperial Palace and Government District, Tokyo, 100-8111. 03/3213–1111. www.kunaicho.go.jp.
If going on your own, allow at least an hour for the East Garden and Outer Garden. Visit Yasukuni Jinja after lunch and spend at least an hour there, taking half an hour each for the small Yushukan (at Yasukuni Jinja) and Kogeikan museums. The modern art museum requires a more leisurely visit. The best time to visit is in spring when the sakura (cherry tree blossoms) are in bloom between late March and early April, or during the Yasukuni Spring festival (April 21–23), which pays homage to the war dead and shrine deities. Avoid visiting the Imperial Palace on Monday, when the East Garden and museums are closed; the East Garden is also closed Friday. In July and August, heat will make the palace walk grueling—bring a hat and bottled water.
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