Luckily the imperial gardens are a short walk from Tokyo Station, which made it an attractive choice. While the Imperial grounds themselves are not normally open to the public, the adjacent east gardens offered much to see. It was very cool to walk from crowded and loud Tokyo into a scene reminiscent of feudal Japan.
I liked the idea that these walls that were built to keep out invaders were now doing the same to keep us safe from the invading city-congestion.
The Hyakunin-bansho Guardhouse. One hundred samurai guardsmen were stationed here to inspect visitors during the Edo Period.
Here's a typical quote from one of the signs, this one from the Tenshudai Donjon Base:
Standing 58ms tall above the ground, five storied building outside, six storied within, it was the highest donjon ever built in Japan and symbolized the authority of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was burnt down in the conflagration of 1657, only 19 years after completion. and it has never since been reconstructed.
After seeing most of what the gardens had to offer, we still had a good portion of the day to fill with awesomeness. On my suggestion, we all walked to the nearby(sort of) Yasukuni Shrine.
Yasukuni Shrine is a place that I have been wanting to visit for quite some time. Not only is it a pretty cool place in its own right, but it has played a small role in the relationship between Japan and its neighbors in Asia.
You see, Yasukuni Shrine is quite a unique place. Yasukuni is a Shinto shrine that contains the souls of those who died fighting for the emperor, including those who died in World War 2. This includes many who were convicted of war crimes. Several prime ministers, including my favorite ever, Junichiro Koizumi, have visited the shrine to pay their respects. This results in condemnations and often riots in countries like China and South Korea, places that suffered under Japanese aggression.
I spotted a line of interesting vans parked on the street across from the shrine. Covered in Japanese flags and other imperialist regalia, they spout what I assume is propaganda from loud speakers. I recall seeing several of them in Kyoto, cruising around town, slogans blaring.
Next were a set of giant doors. The big golden seal is a depiction of a chrysanthemum, the symbol of the emperor.
Then came the building that I am sure I have seen in a newspaper article somewhere. It is where all of the praying happens. Not sure about the names.
Then came world war 2. I was anxious to get to this part of the museum because I wanted to see how the history was handled. The various displays that were in English pretty much put the blame square on the United States forcing the Japanese to attack by cutting off oil and scrap metal imports. I'm not sure that I agree, but I am no war scholar, so I don't see much point in arguing.
In addition to the classic fly-a-plane-into-you kamikaze's, there were a host of other suicidal weapons on display. A human piloted missile and torpedo were on display, as well as a story about people in those heavy diving suits who were trained to simply swim a bomb over to an unsuspecting ship. Pretty serious stuff.
Unfortunately the whole museum was covered in "no photo" signs, so no pictures to be enjoyed. Only a few measly things in the lobby went unprotected.
This concluded my time in Tokyo. My parents were leaving early the next morning, and I needed to go to work the next day. I managed to show them one or two interesting things. Hope they enjoyed themselves.