Next year, the Japanese emperor, Akihito, turns 80 years old. That’s a pretty respectable age for just about anyone, we’d say. In celebration, the Imperial Household Agency has announced plans to open up the Imperial Palace to a select group of lucky commoners to be selected by lottery. Hmm…are you feeling lucky?

As you might expect, the Imperial Palace in Tokyo is generally off-limits to most of us. Of course, if you happen to be in Kyoto, you can take a tour of Kyoto Gosho, a tour we highly recommend, for free throughout the year–though reservations are necessary. However, the palace in Tokyo, the Emperor’s current home, is almost entirely closed off. Of course, there are outdoors-only guided tours and the grounds are open to the public twice a year on the Emperor’s birthday and the day after New Years. But getting inside any of the buildings is nearly impossible, unless you’re a dignitary or high ranking politician.

▼ Emperor Akihito receiving Ambassador Kennedy in the State Room


However, in celebration of the Emperor’s birthday next year, the Imperial Household Agency is making a unique opportunity available to the public for the first time. For two days in the spring and another two days in autumn, members of the public will be granted viewings of the interior of the palace. Normally guided tours never allow people to see the insides of buildings, so this is a truly rare opportunity for the average member of the public.

Many of the palace’s rooms and halls will be included on the tour, such as the “Matsu no Ma,” called the “State Room” in English, which is considered to be the most elegant in the palace. You can see some of the halls in the brief news video below announcing the public visits.

There will a total of 12 tours–six in each season, three per day–with 50 people selected by lottery for each tour, making it available to a total of 600 people. Details regarding the application process and the tour will be released in the middle of February next year, so if you’re interested in going, be sure to keep an eye on the Imperial Household Agency website.

We’ll be applying, but we imagine the rest of Japan will as well, so our chances are probably slim. But still, we can dream!

Sources: Imperial Household Agency (Japanese, English), ITMedia, YouTube
Images: YouTube, Wikipedia