The Emperor’s New Year Greeting
The imperial palace is a major tourist site in Tokyo, but for most of the year, the only area the public is allowed to enter is the gardens. There are only two days of the year when the public is allowed to enter the grounds, the Emperor’s birthday (Dec. 23) and one of the first days of the New Year (this year it was Jan. 3). On those days, the Emperor gives a speech and crowds of people come to see him speak. I went to see the Emperor’s speech on Jan. 3.
Police car at one of the checkpoints
You had to walk through two checkpoints. One where they check your bags and another where they pat you down. At the first checkpoint, the security guard asked me if I speak Japanese and then told me that I wasn’t allowed to eat the food I had with me while on the palace ground and had to leave it in my bag. The second security guard continued to speak to me in English even though I answered her questions in Japanese. Kind of strange.
On the Imperial Palace grounds. I should say that you do get to enter the grounds, but you don't really see them. You have to go through a certain path and with the crowds, you can't see much.
Some of what I was able to see. You can see more crowds of people on the bridge and beyond it, also coming to see the emperor's speech.
Where the crowd was taken to. The Emerpor came to speak in that room. While we were waiting a loudspeaker came on to say that the Emperor would come out in a few minutes. It first said this in Japanese and then English, but the English pronunciation was so strange that it was easier to understand the Japanese.
The second the Emperor appears, these flags pop up, right on cue.
More of the crowd waving their Japanese flags
The emperor! His speech was really short. About one minute long maybe. It was like, "Things are tough financially. Lets have a good year!" And that was about it.
Police officer doing crowd control