Tokyo's most central and most overlooked oasis of green and quiet is more a relaxed, spacious park than a traditional Japanese garden, making it a good picnic spot as well. Formerly part of the grounds of Edo Castle, it was claimed for the Imperial Family after the 1868 Meiji Restoration. Though most of the old castle was torn down or lost to fire, the stone foundations hint at the scale of the country's former seat of power.
The entrance to the East Garden is the
Ote-mon, once the main gate of Ieyasu Tokugawa's castle. Here, you will come across the National Police Agency dojo (martial arts hall) and the Ote Rest House, where for ¥100 you can buy a simple map of the garden. The Museum of the Imperial Collection next door features rotating exhibits of imperial household treasures.
The Hundred-Man Guardhouse was once defended by four shifts of 100 soldiers each. Past it is the entrance to what was once the ni-no-maru, the "second circle" of the fortress. It's now a grove and garden. At the far end is the Suwa Tea Pavilion, an early-19th-century building relocated here from another part of the castle grounds.
The steep stone walls of the hon-maru (the "inner circle"), with the Moat of Swans below, dominate the west side of the garden. Halfway along is Shio-mi-zaka, which translates roughly as "Briny View Hill," so named because in the Edo period the ocean could be seen from here.
Head to the wooded paths around the garden's edges for shade, quiet, and benches to rest your weary feet. In the southwest corner is the Fujimi Yagura, the only surviving watchtower of the hon-maru; farther along the path, on the west side, is the Fujimi Tamon, one of the two remaining armories.
The odd-looking octagonal tower is the Tokagakudo Concert Hall. Its mosaic tile facade was built in honor of Empress Kojun in 1966.
1–1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 100-8111, Japan