How to spend a day in Tokyo’s Chiyoda City neighbourhood

The gorgeous, landscaped gardens of the main palace of the Emperor of Japan make the Chiyoda district a peaceful place to base yourself while exploring Tokyo, with bike tours, quirky museums and Kabuki theatre all close at hand.

The Imperial Palace, the official residence of the Japanese royal family.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Jamie Lafferty
Published 24 Sept 2022, 08:00 BST

 

Moats, bridges and imposing stone walls characterise the main residence of the Imperial Family, a grand palace built in 1888 and then reconstructed after the Second World War, set on the site of an older Edo period castle that once housed the ruling Tokugawa shogun. The East Gardens, open to the public, are popular with picnicking and jogging locals — and anyone interested in Japanese history. But beyond this leafy centrepiece, the Chiyoda district of Tokyo has plenty to entice travellers. Here’s a how to spend a day.

7am: Stretch your legs with the locals

Head out to join the thousands of joggers who have made the palace grounds their running route. One lap of the periphery measures three miles, along which you’ll get a feeling for the neighbourhood’s scenic clash of new and old. 

8am: Breakfast at the other palace

Enjoy a moatside breakfast at the historic Palace Hotel Tokyo, the design of which mirrors the nearby citadel. Keep an eye out for famous faces here, too — actors and sports stars often check in.

10am: Join a bike tour

Learn about the history of the area on a two-wheeled guided tour, taking in sights including the mighty palace gates and Tokyo Station, dating back to 1914.

12pm: Explore the East Gardens

The Imperial Palace was destroyed during the Second World War but has been the seat of the royal family ever since its restoration. Parts of the grounds are closed but there are still miles of paths to explore.

1.30pm: Stop for lunch

Sushi Mizukami is the home of chef Yukinori Mizukami, who spent 18 years learning under legendary sushi chef Jiro Ono. For something more affordable, put on a bib and head to the slurptastic ramen spot Ippudo Marunouchi

4pm: Visit the city’s quirkiest museum

Intermediatheque, in the old Japan Post Tower, has a hidden entrance leading to a collection that includes Persian swords and a menagerie of animal skeletons.

6pm: Enjoy a whisky aperitif

While the maze of bars in Ginza isn’t far away, stay local and go to Chotto Bar Ho, a characterful whisky joint outside of Kojimachi Station with friendly staff.

7pm: Experience Kabuki theatre

Watch traditional Kabuki at the National Theatre, where actors wear elaborate costumes and bombastic make-up. Try a Kabuki for beginners evening, which attempts to demystify the form for newcomers.  

Published in the October 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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