Tokyobling's Blog

Emperor Akihito 80th Birthday – Imperial Palace Grounds

Posted in People, Places by tokyobling on December 24, 2013

Yesterday, the 23rd of December was a public holiday in honor of Emperor Akihito’s birthday, his 80th. It is one of the two annual events where the emperor greets the public, both take place in front of the huge Chowaden, the reception hall at the Imperial Palace (Kyoden) at Tokyo’s most central address, Chiyoda 1-1. About 24 000 people gather in front of the balcony, guided by a very tight security show by the Tokyo police and Imperial Guards.

I got up early in the morning and made my way to the Sakuradamon metro station, from where it was just a short walk to the Imperial Palace. Police had set up a double security check point before you could enter the public outer palace grounds. While waiting in the second group of the third section I noticed the very large amount of foreigners in the waiting to see the Emperor. I had huge group of Taiwanese (there were several other groups in the other sections) next to me, as well as Americans, Russians, Chinese and Koreans, and those were only the ones I could identify. I am sure there were many other nationalities represented there as well.

It was my first time inside the Imperial Palace grounds (not counting the outer grounds which are open to the public year round) and it was thrilling to walk through the massive palace gates for the first time, crossing the elevated bridge over the inner moat after having admired the bridge from a far distance many times before. I also got to see the Imperial Guard in their red, black and gold uniforms for the first time. There were police stationed ever twenty meters or so, telling us not to stop and take photos, so I had to take all of these photos while walking fast! The Emperor makes three public performances, on which he waves to the public and gives a short speech. Despite his recent bout with cancer and a bypass operation he looked and sounded like a man in perfect health. I have heard many silly rumors that his speeches would be in an archaic Japanese even native Japanese would find it hard to understand but as usual his speech was brief, to the point, easy to understand and quite moving. If only half of the corporate speakers I have endured during my life was only half as good as the Emperor, my life would have been much easier!

Moments before the emperor came out with his wife Michiko and immediate family it was hats off for everyone in the audience and half a second before the door opened the man next to me (who must have a sixth sense) raised an ear shattering banzai! that was soon joined by many thousands of other voices. It was quite an experience! Well worth the wait in the December morning cold.

I took the close ups with my cheapo 70-300mm Sigma tele zoom, not the best camera but for the price of a nice meal out in Tokyo I think it is one of the best lenses ever made, and extremely light weight. I could have brought my backbreaker, the 50-500mm Sigma, but that beast would have been much too large for an occasion like this, so the smaller Sigma had to do. Sorry for the poor quality, but handheld at 300mm in poor light in a swaying crowd means you have to crank up both the shutter speed and the ISO! You can see my other photos of the Imperial Palace Grounds here!
























15 Responses

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  1. T. D. Davis said, on December 24, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Nice photos! They make me want to visit Tokyo. Thank you.


  2. yoshizen said, on December 24, 2013 at 5:38 am

    I remember when I went to see the wedding procession of now
    Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko —– it’s a long time ago.
    This is a very good photo-report. Well done.


    • tokyobling said, on December 24, 2013 at 6:26 am

      Sounds like a great experience! I have yet to see an imperial wedding. Maybe in twenty year’s time as the present kids grow up? Thank you for the kind comment and your support Yoshizen! (^-^)/


  3. Karolyn Cooper said, on December 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Great photos. Thank you for getting up early and joining the crowds so that we can see the pictures in comfort at home!


    • tokyobling said, on December 25, 2013 at 1:41 am

      Thank you for the kind comment Karolyn! (^-^) It was worth getting up early!


  4. Dave said, on December 24, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Wow, that’s so cool! To see a real, live emperor! What an experience! I hope to see that some day!


    • tokyobling said, on December 25, 2013 at 1:41 am

      Indeed! (^o^) And not to forget the Empress, the Crown Prince, a prince and a princess as well! (^-^)


  5. Dina Farmer said, on December 24, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Oh wow! Can I say that is has been a long time since I’ve seen the Emperor! A very long time. amazing photos and I’m glad he is in much better health!


  6. celia knox said, on December 25, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    What a great opportunity! So lucky!!


    • tokyobling said, on December 25, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      I am! I was half expecting to see you there! We have managed to be at the same place at the same time before! (^-^)


      • celia knox said, on December 25, 2013 at 2:17 pm

        I know, right! I would have gone, but I’m in Australia at the moment. I often wish I’d gone to places after seeing your posts, too. ^^ Merry xmas!


  7. yudhistira14 said, on March 16, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Very nice photo. Unfortunately, when I was not occurred any event. I just take pictures around The Palace alone


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