A couple of days before Christmas, on 23Dec, the Imperial Palace of Japan is open to visitors in celebration of the Emperor's birthday (it's only open to the public one other day of the year, 2Jan). Jason and I decided it was worth it to brave what was sure to be the masses to experience this piece of Japanese culture. I must say this was one of the most well organized events I have EVER attended. I'm 100% sure that if something similar were to take place in the US, it would not go down like this did. Every one was on their best behavior and extremely kind to one another.
1st, you must start the day off right, with a little stretching
then you followed the arrows depending on how large your "luggage" was
there were A LOT of people that came out. We waited about 25 minutes
and then, RIGHT ON TIME, the Emperor and his family came outside
and everyone went nuts waiving their little Japan flags with pride for their country
the Emperor talked for about 5 minutes, everyone waived their flags again and then we all proceeded out the opposite direction from which we had entered
"slowly and cautiously", just like the sign says
Jason took some video while I was snapping pictures:
I had absolutely no clue what he was talking about but I was later told he said something like "it was a very hot year, next year will be better" but who knows how accurate that is!
After we left the palace, we decided to head to Harajuku and do a little shopping while we were in Tokyo.
We also stumbled upon a Christmas bike rally
which really brought me some much needed holiday cheer
and saw this huge and gorgeous tree with a great message
before we boarded a "romance car" (an express train with nice big comfy assigned seats) and headed home