Mr. Selfish and I decided to visit the Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle during our stay in Kyoto. We didn’t really know much Japanese history but it was still interesting to see the palace and the castle.
Apparently, in 1600, the Tokugawa Shogunate seized power and established a military government in what is now Tokyo. During this time period, the role of the emperor was largely symbolic since the shogun controlled foreign policy, the military, and feudal patronage. Although the government was in Tokyo, the shoguns still frequented Kyoto since it was home to the Imperial Court. Hence, the shoguns built Nijo Castle, which is quite close to the Imperial Palace.
Mr. Selfish and I toured the Imperial Palace first. You can only visit the palace through a tour, which is offered in English or Japanese. You have to bring your passport to the tour office and sign up. We were lucky in that we showed up about 20 minutes before an English tour was to begin and were able to join that tour.