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The 83rd birthday of Emperor Akihito

Emperor Akihito had a birthday on December 23, 2016, so I headed to the Imperial Palace to see him and listen to his speech.  It was another big crowd experience.  But how often can you get within fifty meters of him?  I wasn’t going to miss this chance. 

crowds in front of Imperial palace
The crowd waits patiently to enter Tokyo Imperial Palace.

I made a mistake getting out the door. It was winter, but the weather was warm. I left home in jeans, a jacket, and a scarf.  When I got to the palace, people were in shorts and t-shirts. I should have checked the forecast. 

crowd moving through Main Gate
A huge crowd makes its way into Tokyo Imperial Palace through Main Gate.

Weather aside, the event was good.  I don’t mean it was good as in a fun way but good as in that everything proceeded smoothly.  Getting through security checks was easy and painless.  The police got the 33,300 visitors into and out of the palace without a problem.  That was most appreciated.  Still, the continuous “Please keep moving.  Don’t stand still to take pictures” was annoying. 

Emperor Akihito appeared on the balcony of Chowaden Hall at the appointed time.  When the doors opened, the crowd roared their approval.  Everyone raised their flags high over their heads.

people moving from Marunouchi to Imperial Palace for Emperor's Birthday

He looked well for his age.  His wife, Empress Michiko, sons, their wives, and two granddaughters followed him.  His speech was brief, a few minutes.  In it, he thanked the people for their well-wishes.  He also spoke of his worries for the people of Itoigawa city in Niigata prefecture.  Many there had lost homes and businesses due to a large fire. 

I stayed there for his three appearances to get as many pictures as possible.  Due to the crowd’s size and not being the tallest guy, I had to stand on my tiptoes.  I needed that extra bit of height to get my lens over everyone’s heads. 

Emperor appears at Chowaden Hall and crowd cheers
The Emperor appears and the crowd goes wild.

And then there are the windows on the balcony where the Emperor appears.  They are difficult to shoot through.  No matter where you stand, they reflect something. Standing in one place is never a good idea there.  Moving positions between his appearances is the best way to go. 

people moving into Imperial Palce for Emperor's birthday

Staying in front of Chowaden Hall during the breaks is no problem as the police don’t usher you out.  But, quite a few people will remain, so you need to be quick to move to your next spot.  Others will want to leave, so be aware of the congestion. 

people moving past Fushimi Keep

This event made me want to get a long zoom lens.  The Pentax 18-135 that I used at the time was way too short.  I had to crop all my photos to get Emperor Akihito and his family to a reasonable size.

Imperial Family on Chowaden Hall balcony
The Imperial family greet the crowd.

Actually, on that day, the media people were behind me.  The smallest lens there was probably 400 mm.  They came prepared.  They also had salaries and budgets to allow them to buy that gear.  I had to wait another five years till I got mine!

Japanese media to cover Emperor's birthday event
The Japanese media are always in attendance for Imperial events.

The Emperor’s birthday is always a good event.  You just need to be aware that the crowded so will be massive.  Japan’s Imperial family is popular, and people like to get a glimpse of them whenever possible.

Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako

If you have been to this event at the Imperial Palace, please tell us what you thought about it. Any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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  1. Pingback: My photo guide for Tokyo Imperial Palace - Tokyo in Pics

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