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Sunday morning. We were in Tokyo on our way to get one of Malcolm’s scrumptious creations at the Earl sandwich shop in Akasaka.
The-EarlWe were cruising comfortably along our usual route, but as we reached Uchibori Dori (Inner Moat Boulevard), we were caught in an unusual swarm of traffic.

140406 TokyoPalace01Looking around for the source of this sudden congestion, we saw throngs of people emerging from the Marunouchi park that stands between the palace and Tokyo Station.

140406 TokyoPalace06What first showed up as a trickle of individual pedestrians, grew into streams of determined people of all descriptions.

140406 TokyoPalace09The scattered masses merged to form a surging river of humanity. Their silent, relentless approach suggested an unstoppable force; a zombie invasion. Japan’s royal palace was under siege.

140406 TokyoPalace02But wait, if these were zombies, they were awfully well mannered, well dressed, and pleasantly free of any mutilated body parts.

140406 TokyoPalace11Then I remembered — right after the emperor’s auspicious 80th birthday last December, his majesty announced that part of the palace grounds would be open to the public during the cherry blossom season.

p1-w3-emperor-a-20131224The golden brick road is actually the 600-meter, tree-lined Inui-dori road that runs from the north gate right up past the inner walls of the main palace.

DTMANAGE.000000020140404145604650-1This is the Japanese version of the forbidden city — commoners are let in only on New Year’s Day for the Imperial family’s annual greetings. This year it’s open the whole first week of April while the royal cherry blossoms are in bloom.

140406 TokyoPalace12I heard today that the human chain we saw snaking its way all across the outer palace grounds carried about 200,000 loyal royal subjects who spent over two hours inching their way toward the royal court. Sunday was the peak. Other days the pilgrimage took just over one hour. We won’t know the total for the whole week until tomorrow. Since Kayoko has an appointment in Hibiya tomorrow, she will stroll across the park to see if the line is more accommodating.

140406 TokyoPalace14