The Kyoto Imperial Palace isn’t open for general public admission, to visit you have to apply online to join a guided tour. I wanted to go on a Monday and had to wait 6 weeks for a spot!
The tours are in English or Japanese, we joined the 60min morning English tour, which started at 10am. I didn’t calculate backwards when I booked it that it would mean we had to get an 8am train! Too early for me!
Applying for the tour was easy enough and when we arrived I just had to show my reservation email to the security and admin counter.
On to the tour…
It started with a DVD about the tour route and history of the palace, then the guide appeared and told us some more. Then we were off!
We were followed by a security guard and clicker counter, checking everyone was still there, and blocking our way occasionally to make sure we didn’t wander the wrong way!
Most of the rooms were empty but had some decorative wall paintings. Apparently the palace holds a huge art collection…but it’s not available to view.
We enjoyed our visit to the palace, our guide was very good, but the palace wasn’t any more impressive than other places we’ve visited. Nijo Castle was just as good (if not better) where you can take your time wandering around and and see some exhibits. Although you do have to pay for Nijo and the Palace is free.
If I were to visit again I’d opt for the Japanese tour, I probably wouldn’t be able to understand 80% of it, but being in such a large group of tourists really irritated me with how rude and loud they were! Some sat down on the palace pillars, leaned over the roped areas and one guy had to touch everything! They were banging locker doors and talking when the guide was trying to introduce herself. I felt so embarrassed for her. Maybe I’ve just been in Japan too long now!
To make a reservation visit –