January 4, 2015

Imperial Palace and the Emperor's New Year Greeting

Our first two weeks in Japan have been full of holidays, new friends, exploring Yokota and getting settled as much as we can in a hotel room. This week we were determined to get out and venture a little further away from base. The New Year greeting at the residence of the Emperor of Japan and his family was the perfect opportunity to not only explore but take part in a cultural tradition for many of the Japanese people. Each year thousands of people gather at the Imperial Palace to offer good wishes to the Emperor and Empress of Japan as they (and other members of the royal family) gather on the veranda to receive them. The Emperor also addresses the people at this time and offers a New Year's Greeting. The Palace is only open in this way twice a year (The Emperor's birthday on December 23 and New Year's Greeting January 2)

The royal family was only going to appear five times (10:10, 11, 11:50, 1:30 and 2:20) so we wanted to make sure we got there on time. We figured that the last two after lunch would be the most popular so we wanted to make sure we got there before the crowd was too crazy. After all more than 81,000 people attended last year! I'm not going to lie we were so nervous because when asking around people kept "warning" us not to go, it'll be too crowded, you won't get a seat on the train, it'll be way too crazy, we don't recommend going...then we remembered we were going to the most populated city in the world according to the UN so we snapped out of the negative funk and decided to go anyway. Everything we ever do in Tokyo will be crowded!!! Why should we let a little bit of a crowd and standing up on the train stop us from having once in a lifetime adventures?! Besides I don't come from a itty bitty town somewhere in Idaho (sorry if you do live in an itty bitty town in Idaho..don't mean to offend you! *hugs*) A crowd doesn't scare me!

We took the base shuttle from our building to the stop as close to the front gate as we could get and then walked to the train station, which is about 15 minutes. During the walk my wonderful husband so kindly pointed out that Logan was gloveless and it was a chilly morning (I mean Isaac even had a beanie on and he's pretty tough weather wise!)  basically meaning I, and apparently I alone, forgot his gloves haha Luckily there is a department store right next to our train station so we missed out first train option and headed to grab Logan some gloves. We made it out and to the platform just in time to catch the next train 

After an hour train ride we arrived at Tokyo Station and I was surprised at how big and beautiful it was. The station was opened in 1914 and renovated in 2012. It turned 100 years old in December and it is awesome (and busy)! 

After wandering around the station just taking it all in we ran into a wonderful family from Australia who was also headed to Imperial Palace and it was a nice reminder that we were actually there to see the Emperor and not to roam Tokyo Station haha We headed out of the station and followed the crowd to the palace. What we had assumed would be a chaotic and large crowd was actually a well controlled but still large crowd. The wait was minimal, we were constantly moving and got through pretty quickly. We cleared security and a bag check and it was up to the veranda area for us! The route up was a little steep since it was gravel and we couldn't push the stroller (and someone decided it was too crowded for him to walk) but I almost didn't even notice because the grounds of the palace are just amazing.

 We got to the top where the veranda is 5 minutes before the 11:50 appearance of the family (perfect timing!) We got a pretty good spot since we are both short and even though it was off to the side we were able to see the royal family perfectly. Before you get there they hand you small Japanese flag to wave when the family comes out. It was so cool to see everyone get excited and wave their flags and trying to get the family's attention. Even Logan got in on the flag waving action. They were only out for about 5 minutes and then headed back inside (I assume to eat lunch....I mean they had some time to kill and who isn't hungry at 12 lol)

After the steep walk back down we took a minute to hang around the grounds, take some pictures and just admire the amazing architecture of the temple and other buildings around. I can't imagine how long it took to get the buildings built. We were all in awe, even Logan.

I am so glad that we got the opportunity so early in our journey to visit the Imperial palace and see the royal family. It was amazing for both Isaac and I but a memory that Logan will hopefully have forever (and if not I took plenty of pictures). After leaving the palace we decided that it was best to head back home and grab something to eat that Isaac has been asking us for since we got off of the plane....CoCo's Japanese Curry!!! Isaac has actually eaten at CoCo's in 3 countries which I think is pretty cool. He ate there when he was stationed in Korea last year, we went to the Torrance, California location on midtour and now the Fussa Japan location.

 All the "walking" that Logan did made him tired and he asked to go home after eating so we walked the 15 minutes to the base and called it a day. All in all it was a great day and I'm so happy we didn't let other people's opinions ruin a great experience for us


  1. Beautiful pictures, my favorite is Logan looking up from his cup. My other favorites are the ones showing the beautiful buildings.

    1. The architecture in the older buildings here is amazing

  2. Sounds like an awesome time and such beautiful pictures! My cousin is a military wife over in Japan right now too! Looks like such a great place to live :)
    Thanks for linking up on Tuesday Talk!
    Katie @ Sweet Little Ones

    1. It is really a beautiful country with the nicest of people. I am so blessed that we have the opportunity to live here. I hope that your cousin is enjoying life here as much as I am! Thank you for reading and commenting :) See you next Tuesday!!

  3. I would love to see the Imperial Palace! Wow, such gorgeous photos and it looks absolutely lovely.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting Jennifer! It was beautiful and I am so grateful to not only have seen it in person but to be able to expose our son to a new culture at such an early age. See you next Thursday on the #Shinebloghop