Inside the Kyoto Imperial Palace are sparse and regal grounds. Numerous halls hold National Treasures. The park surrounding the Palace is a large, lush and green space in the middle of the city. One special building – the shishinden 「great ceremonial hall, 紫宸殿」 – and its huge courtyard are off-limits to the public.

Dantei 「South Courtyard, 南庭」

Main courtyard of the Kyoto Imperial Palace
South courtyard of the Kyoto Imperial Palace

The shishinden is the most important building at the Palace. It was utilised by the Emperor for important rituals and ceremonies held here – including enthronement ceremonies. The large courtyard in front of this building – the dantei 「south courtyard, 南庭」- is made of meticulously raked white gravel. Surrounding the courtyard on three sides are white walls with vermillion coloured posts, each wall containing one gate (all 3 gates can be seen in the photo on this page). The courtyard itself is very minimal, containing only a single cherry blossom tree and a single orange tree.

This is just one section of the massive Palace. While touring the Palace visitors can peak inside buildings and see centuries old wall paintings and other artifacts – many designated as National Treasures – as well as learn about the construction and history of this important site.

This photo was taken during a free, English speaking, guided tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

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