TOKYO (AFP) – Tens of thousands of people were offered a rare – but congested – glimpse of Japan’s exclusive Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo Wednesday, in a fleeting open garden event.
By early afternoon, more than 50,000 visitors had turned out to enjoy a stroll along a 750-metre, tree-lined road that is usually off-limits to the hoi polloi.
Television footage, including from helicopters, showed ranks of mostly elderly people shuffling through the dramatic autumn foliage of crimson maple trees.
The Imperial Household Agency, the government department responsible for every aspect of the royal family’s affairs, decided to open a small section of the grounds for five days as part of celebrations marking Emperor Akihito’s 80th year.
The Imperial Palace is a vast patch of greenery in grey, crowded Tokyo, one of the biggest cities on earth, where millions of people live in cramped apartments.