Up until a week ago, I worked in a beautiful right by the Imperial Palace and I had a lovely view of the palace grounds. I have wandered over that direction more than a few times during a lunch break, but you can only access so much of the area for 363 days out of the year. However, on two days each year, the palace grounds open and it is possible to visit the interior AND actually get a glimpse of the Emperor himself, along with the rest of the Imperial Family: the 2nd of January (New Year) and the 23rd of December (the Emperor’s birthday).
Not sure whether I would be here for either in future years and having been in Hong Kong on the Emperor’s birthday, I decided I would visit the grounds on the 2nd of January this year. I actually went into work that day (normally a holiday) and was astounded by the number people lined up to go into the grounds.
Appearances happen four times throughout the morning (from 9-2) and, like any good, Japanese event, people wait patiently in line and then move right along when the time comes. My friends, CoyLou and Ian, met me by my office and we headed over around 11 am. And in true Japanese form, we were ushered right along, no time to waste.
It really was to amazing to see all of these people gathered to see the Emperor (who was behind a wall of bullet proof glass). It was fun to be a part of this and to see all of the flags waving (which they handed out as we went in) and to be waving a flag myself.