If you were to look at a map of Kyoto, or see the city from a bird's eye view, there would be a massive slab of green just north of downtown. The massive slab is the park where, for roughly 1,000 years lasting until 1868, Japan's Emperors lived.
Kyoto Gosho, the Imperial Palace, is a huge park that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
These two facts distinguish it from Tokyo's Imperial Palace - where the present Emperor, his family, and entourage now live - which is open only on New Year's Day.
Another difference is that Tokyo is heavily guarded while Kyoto Gosho is only lightly patrolled. A police car or two meander slowly around the grounds every hour or so.
At night, it is quiet and safe and nearly empty.
In addition to the Emperor's former residence, the Kyoto State Guesthouse (where visiting VIPs stay), and other traditional buildings, there are tennis courts and baseball fields.
Gosho is also popular for birders, for "hanami" (cherry viewing) parties, and the fall colors.
Last Sunday, we took a bike ride around the massive grounds. It was a picture perfect late fall, early winter morning.
Photographers and walkers and a few tourists were out in force.
The top picture is of the length of a wall, looking north, of the former imperial residence.
The lower picture shows a gate on the east side, around the corner from the top.
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Saturday, December 06, 2008