The Imperial Moat runs along the west side. If you head northwest or further west and down south a bit, you’ll arrive at the fabulous Akasaka. Just across the street to the south before the Imperial Palace is the Imperial Guard Division HQ. Just east of that is the Japan National Archives. Just across east of that on Uchibori-Dori is the Parkside Building, which is down into Otemachi.
There are also 2 large car parking lots.
Uchibori-Dori, facing west. The entrance to the Imperial Palace is on the left, the Parkside Bldg. on the right. Kitanomaru Parkis ahead up the street on the right.
Entrance is free and is easiet on the south side of the street at the Tayasumon Gate near the Imperial Palace from the main street. There’s a small bridge to cross the moat into the park. You’ll be right at Nippon Budokan so head southwest around the walkway and further south into the park.
Inside the park there are 2 great museums: National Museum of Modern Art and the Science Museum. The Science Museum is way out on the southeast side.
There are also a few other small things to do, and shops including an ice cream place and a few small other food shops.
The leaves in the fall are spectacular.
If you’re in central Tokyo, you don’t want to miss it.
Just to the north is another small town called Iidabashi within walking distance with its own station.
History + Controversy
The shrine is controversial and is resented by China + Korea because it commemorates war dead considered to be war criminals by those countries (don’t forget Japan invaded both China and Korea in the late 19th + early 20th centuries). Every year around the anniversary of the end of World War 2, both countries decry politicians’ visits to the shrine. In recent years the Japanese Prime Minister has avoided visiting the shrine on the WW2 anniversary.
Things to Do
The shrine grounds are not huge, but there’s a lot to do. There are historical museums, and perhaps, most interestingly, some World War 2 exhibits. Just to the north is Iidabashi, and just to the west is Ichigaya (perhaps most famous for its popular Ichigaya Fish Center). The Imperial Palace and Kitanomaru Park are just to the southeast, and Tokyo Dome City is just to the northeast.
Every July the Matama Matsuri (festival) is held in the stone park area (Marshal Admiral Tōgō Memorial Park) just to the east. With over 30,000 lighted paper lanterns, it’s impressive to say the least. A must-see.
Just to the northeast a bit further is the Otemachi area and to the southeast of that is the main financial district, Marunouchi – all within walking distance.
If you’re there in the fall, the Ginko trees lining the park light up a brilliant yellow with fall colors.
Map of World War 2 carpet bombing in the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Yasukuni + the Ōmura Masujirō Statue monument narrowly escaped the bombing and are located roughly in the small dark patch between red areas on the left side of the map. Tokyo Bay is shown to the lower right.
Also just to the southwest a few more blocks is the Marshal Admiral Tōgō Memorial Park (officially Togo Gensui Memorial Park).
Yasukuni Shrine is a beautiful + impressive complex – even if it is entangled in a somewhat less than favorable history of World War 2. It’s a must-see in Tokyo, even if only for the buildings, grounds, and museums. Be sure to stop by.