|Fujimi-yagura Keep - reconstructed in 1659 - is one of the|
oldest remnants of Edo Castle in Tokyo
While Japan's Imperial family may not be as highly visible as the other 'royals' elsewhere in the planet, it's interesting to note that the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and some other Imperial properties scattered in the country, are open to the public. Best of all, they're free. All one has to do is apply in advance online through the Imperial Household Agency.
|Tours start at the Kikyo-mon Gate|
|The Imperial Household Agency Building - constructed in 1935 - temporarily replaced the|
Imperial Palace that was totally destroyed during the bombings of World War II
|The Imperial Palace was reconstructed in 1968|
|Fushimi-yagura Keep and the Seimon-tetsubashi Bridge|
The tours - all conducted in Japanese (English audio guides are available for free) - are held on weekdays, except national holidays and between December 28-January 4. It runs for a little more than an hour, covering a distance of 2.2 kilometers. Even if the tour do not actually go inside the Palace (only within the grounds), the guided walk is still a great peek beyond the forbidding moats that surround the palace.
|Subway signs lead us to where we're going|
|The National Theatre of Japan|
|Just before curtain time|
Nearby to the west, past the Sakurada moat of the palace, lies the National Theatre of Japan. Managed and operated by the Japan Arts Council, its two theaters are venues for kabuki, Buyō, bunraku, gagaku and Shōmyō - all forms of traditional Japanese performing arts. Lucky for me, there's an ongoing Kabuki Appreciation Class for July. What this means is that prior to the actual show, one of the Kabuki actors will go onstage to explain what's to be expected during the program, from the music to the dialogue down to the highlights of the performance.
|Kabuki program for "Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura"|
(thank goodness for the English audio guide!)
What makes Kabuki so unique is that only male actors portray both male and female characters. The make-up employed is distinctly heavy and the costumes worn so very elaborate. Sets onstage are changed from very minimalist Zen to truly very spectacular. The performance can last up to a whole day, divided into different acts. We didn't have the luxury of a whole day to watch nor would I want to - but the one-act program "Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura" (with two scenes) was perfect for my time and a great introduction to Kabuki first-timers.
|Kabayan in Japan|
South of the Imperial Palace grounds is Hibiya Park, Japan's first "westernized" urban park. What might interest Pinoy travelers to this green lung in the city is a bust of Jose Rizal. He visited Japan for about six weeks, part of his round-the-world journey at the time. At the same spot as the bust was the old site of the hotel where Rizal stayed. Having just celebrated his 150th birthday in June this year, it was just fitting that I pay tribute to him by visiting his bust.