御苑/Imperial Garden/Kyoto Gyoen National Garden/Kyoto

As an old capital with a long history, there are many imperial buildings in Kyoto. Depending on the time, the season, and the ruler’s mood, emperors or shoguns and their entourages changed where they wanted to reside.

For a long time, royalty stayed at the Kyoto Imperial Palace complex. In 1868, the shogunate fell and the emperor regained his power. Kyoto had been Japan’s capital since 794 A.D but the emperor decided the economic action was in Edo and made it his new capital. When the capital moved to what we now know as Tokyo, Kyoto’s Imperial Palace was maintained as it was, but a lot of nobles’ houses surrounding it were destroyed. A garden was installed in its place. This was Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. It is where the locals like to relax today.

People come here to run, cycle, have picnics, watch butterflies and birds. A long gravel path goes around the gates of the palace and people like to walk along it. There are a few shrines, ponds, and much to discover. Paths go in and out of the trees and it is possible to find tranquillity away from people by going a few metres off the main course. Whatever time of the year, the garden is pure pleasure.

There is the palace, hidden behind large gates and here is the garden – open, free and without judgement. Emperors, shoguns, and nobles and their houses and ceremonies – why worry about them when you can lose yourself in their imperial garden?

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