Saturday, April 19, 2008

Inside the Imperial Palace

Imperial Household Headquaters

Where the Emperor gives his New Years message

So usually you can go and see the outside of the Imperial Palace. By this i mean that you cant go inside the walls. BUT if you apply over the internet you can go inside the East Garden of the palace. It has to be approved by the Imperial Household Agency. And this is what i did on Thursday afternoon.

But before i talk about going inside the walls of the Imperial Palace, I want to talk about a book i read recently. It is called Princess Masako, Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne. It is written by an Australian man and was fascinating to read. Princess Masako is the crown princess of Japan. Which means that she is going to be the next Empress. She is a really bright and very well educated woman. She originally wanted to be a diplomat and speaks several languages. She said no several times to her now husband, the crown prince of Japan. But eventually she said yes and joined the Imperial family. Here in Japan, when a woman marries, traditionally she leaves her family and joins her husbands. This means that she no longer goes to the temple to pray for her relatives etc but now she must pray for her new husband's relatives. And Masako had to leave her family behind and did not see them for a long time after she was first married.

What was most interesting was the pressure that was on her to have a boy. Japan doesnt allow women to take the throne unless they are desperate. There are a few examples of when this has happened but it is very very very rare. Masako had a little girl and was even undergoing fertility treatment. This had never been done before by the Imperial family.

Another interesting part of this was the deep depression that Masako suffered as she was suffocated by the Imperial Household agency. She was not allowed to see her family or friends. She no longer worked and was not able to travel. They rule her whole life. It was very sad. I think in a three year period she saw her family only twice. Awful.

Anyway, I was going to take the book into the compound with me and get a photo of me with it in there and i might go back again before i leave cause what an awesome photo that would be. I was worried that they would search my bag. They didnt and off we went.

And now i can totally understand the book better. The Imperial Household Agency guys who looked after us were crazy about the control thing. We had to walk in four straight lines. And if we strayed to take a photo then they came and waved us back into the group. We were allowed to take photos on this one bridge but we did anyway. But they kept telling us not to.

That said they were very kind. I got a recorded English guide so that i wouldnt miss anything when the Japanese guide was speaking. I can understand alot but of course still prefer English. And the security guys would always come and tell us which number to press. Of course they werent in order and the numbers on the maps and explanations of course were not in order either. I looked on the Japanese map as well. Mine was in English. And the Japanese one was just as confusing. Obviously, it takes a Japanese mind to understand the order cause i wasnt the only foreigner who was having trouble. Also one man fell over and the guide/guards were very good about it.

BUT it was crazy how much control they had to have over us. Firstly, the group was mainly Japanese and old. And if the Japanese are told to do something, they usually do it. Not one of them strayed from the lines the whole time. It was the stupid foreigners that caused problems. lol. Opps.

It was raining but it was still good to see inside the area. I will let the photos and their comments speak for themselves.

I will post some photos of what I saw later.

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