If Buckingham Palace is for Queen Elizabeth, Imperial Palace is for the Emperor Akihito. Situated in the heart of the capital (few minutes walk from Tokyo Station), this is the official residence of Japan’s royalty and only open to public for two occasions – Emperor’s Birthday (Dec.23) and New Year’s Greeting (Jan.2).
The idea that you cannot enter will not stop any tourist from visiting the place due to the historical and cultural significant of the palace and its resident. Your best option will be to take some snaps of whatever you can see outside (Nijubashi Bridge, Main Gate and Guard Tower, Bronze Statue of Samurai Warrior) or walk the grounds of East Garden (former site of Edo’s defense team and the location of national legend – 47 Ronin). There is nothing much to see in the East Garden as most of the structure were destroyed but its also a good way to admire Tokyo skyscrapers. Try to visit during weekend and you will see loads of joggers circling the vicinity.
Few blocks from the palace is Tokyo itself. Nice, quiet neighborhood (maybe because it’s weekend?) and nothing much to see just the usual buildings and European branded shops/upscale cafes. One of the best place to visit in this area is the Ichigokan Park. It’s a sweet little park in the middle of towering buildings and home of Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum which showcase the influence of the West to Japan during the 18th century.
I saw an old Japanese man painting the Guards Tower using water color in spite of the hot summer afternoon. Such a contrasting way of capturing the moment when everyone around you is using DSLR with mighty lens.