Inside the Imperial Palace grounds there are more security guards than visitors. I wander past some overgrown trees and toward the Imperial Household Building. Outside, a small marquee has been erected. At the marquee, I am given the opportunity to write my name, nationality, and a nice message for His Imperial Majesty the Emperor. I write ‘Happy Birthday, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor’, for today is His Imperial Majesty the Emporer's 81st birthday. I take care to write it down neatly and deliberately. A sign hanging above tells me that my message of ‘Happy Birthday, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor’, will be duly forwarded to its highest destination as the expression of my warm congratulations.
After signing, I continue along a one-way system. The grass here is completely overgrown and is in desperate need of a gardener. The Japanese tax payer covers the cost of outer garden maintenance, which boasts neatly trimmed grass cut on a daily basis. It feels like a waste of money to me. Inside it is a very different story. Perhaps the tax money doesn’t quite make it into the ‘inner sanctum’, or maybe His Imperial Majesty the Emperor is required to cut the grass here by himself. I am not sure, but regardless, the grass inside the Imperial Palace grounds is an overgrown shambles.
I walk idly along, somewhat unimpressed. I head up a slope before passing through the remains of Chujakumon Gate, and into the public gardens. These gardens are somewhat more remarkable than the rest of the Imperial Palace grounds; the grass here is cut really short. Before me stands an orchard. His Imperial Majesty the Emperor personally planted three of these cultivars in 2008. The Sanbokan Grapefruit, a sour orange; the Tangor, a cross between a tangerine and an orange; and the Cherry Orange, a variety of Mandarin orange. The orchard was created on the site of the Castle of Edo based on His Imperial Majesty the Emperor’s idea that visitors would be able to enjoy the popular fruits of the Edo era.