We pulled into the parking lot and then walked a ways through the hot Tokyo afternoon. We passed school groups, joggers, business people, and college students enjoying their afternoons. And, of course, a myriad of other tour groups following their own tour guides with their own banners on sticks.
The most striking object I saw was the statue of Samurai Kushunoki Masahige. He faces the palace as a show of loyalty, rather than facing away from it as is traditional. At least I think that's the story; I could be recalling wrong. I'm sure someone will correct me if that's the case.
The palace grounds are a popular park, right in the heart of Tokyo's commercial sector.
If you're looking to pass some time in Tokyo, the grounds are probably a great stop. There are some wonderful people watching opportunities here, but if you are on a tight tourism schedule, you can probably skip it. The East Gardens might be the better option for touring.
What can you see? Well, you can see the bridges that guard the entrance to the Imperial Palace. There are two of them -- The Eyeglass Bridge (the name comes from the arches) and the Nijubashi bridge (which basically means "double bridge").
In this image, you mainly see the first bridge. The railing for the second bridge is barely visible in the background.
To get to the palace in the background, you cross the first bridge, pass through a guard house, make a U-turn and cross the second bridge. Even though the palace is closed to the public all but two days of the year, the guards still attend their stations.
There are fascinating stories about the palace and the history of Japan. From that perspective it's a great place to visit. From a bus tour perspective, though, there's not much going on in this stop.
Perhaps the best way to visit the palace as a tourist would be to take a picnic lunch, enjoy that on the grounds, watch the locals, go see the bridges, then head over to the East Gardens.
More pictures of Tokyo are here.
More of my Tokyo Travels posts are here.