Japan 2012 - Kyoto Imperial Palace
One of the sights I was looking forward to visit was the Kyoto Imperial Palace. It is very near Nijo Castle, so quite convenient if you group the 2 visits together. Admission to the Imperial Palace is free, but you need to make an appointment at the Imperial Household Agency. Application can be made online.
You can only visit the Palace on guided tours conducted by the Imperial Household. Before the tour, a short briefing by video is given in in the visitor's centre. The video provides a good historical background on what you are about to see. Like many Asian imperial palaces, the complex of buildings is designed to be used according to the seasons. Gardens are arranged to showcase their best views from the buildings during different seasons.
Renown as one of the most beautiful palace complex in Japan, the architecture of the Kyoto Imperial Palace is very elegant and visually stunning. There is also a lot to learn about Japanese architecture and garden design, so it is a must visit for design lovers.
The gardens are some of the most impressive I have seen during the trip.