TFWT experiences a 4 Days voluntary workforce at the Imperial Palace (Oct.23-26)

Dreams come true.
Tokyo Free Walking Tour(TFWT) won a lottery to take part in the Imperial voluntary workforce from October 23 to 26. Finally, 18 guides of us could participate in this volunteer service.

This workforce is run by the Imperial Household Agency and citizen aged from 15 to 75 years old are able to apply by groups. (only by groups, not by individuals)
It has a high reputation for mostly two reasons and countless groups come from all over our Japan to take part in this workforce.

(1) Their Majesties the Imperor and Impress sincerely makes time to meet people as far as they are available.(Even Their Magesties are quite busy, they continue their greetings.)
(2) During the workforce term, to complete the work, you may be allowed to enter some restricted area which are usually not open to public.

So as other groups, TFWT eagered to take part in the volunteer.
The volunteer first started at 1947 by young volunteers to help cleaning up the devastated area burnt down by World War II in 1947. Since then, Emperor Hirohito(current Emperor Akihito’s father) and his consort, Empress Koujun started meeting people and the custom been taken until today.

For this past year, Their Majesties the Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko has met a total of approximately 11,500 persons on 70 occasions to thank them for their services. This is not counted in their official duties.(this includes
voluntary helpers at the Palace Sanctuary who serve at the ritual ceremonies)

And for this week, more than 350 people united by 15 groups came to this place to volunteer.  It was a big pleasure for us to join the workforce to do any labor inside the Imperial palace.

The schedule for us was as below.
・Day 1 – 3 work at Imperial palace (weeding the grass, sweeping off the sidewalk)
・Day 4 work at Akasaka Detached Palace (weeding the grass and weeding summer  plants)
Nowadays, the concept of this workforce is as“ the power and energy to protect the beautiful Imperial palace by sincere people ”

During the term, we were given an opportunity to meet Their Magesties the Imperor and Impress on the third day(Oct.25), and to greet Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince(Narihito) on the next day(Oct.26).
Needless to say, it was a fascinating and unforgettable moment for us.
They carefully listened to people’s words, asked some questions to the group leaders, sometimes even being very frank. Some groups came from Hokkaido or Yamaguchi-prefecuture, so Their Majesties asked them if those people were involved or affected in the recent earthquake or heavy rain.
From this, we were taught how Their Majesties always care about people.
Their sincere attitude just struck our mind.
Soon we could recognized why Their majesties are so loved by people.

On the same third day,
a friendly guide from the Imperial Household Agency took us to the East Garden of Imperial palace before our worktime. Although it was the place which we are quite familiar with, it was such a relief to have being guided with new topics!


The last day, our working place changed to the Akasaka Detached Palace.
Akasaka Detached Palace is the residence area where other 4 royal families live
including the Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Crown Princess.
(The red star area in below picture is Akasaka Detached Palace. The yellow star shows the Imperial palace area)
Recently, it has been announced that Their Majesties the Imperor and Impress would move to the Akasaka Palace after their abdication. Akasaka  Palace is also famous for its fabulous Japanese garden.
2 times a year, in spring and autumn, a garden party which accomodates 2,000 guests is held at this place. This year it is Nov.9,  So the gardeners were busy at preparing and we were happy to help them by weeding the grass where Imperor supposed to walk.

To say, this program was far above our expectation.
Although the opportunity to meet Their Magesties was needless to say,
feeling the hosted mind of the great guides, talking with friendly elder people in other groups, enjoying the workforce with our good teammates,
recognizing the solemn sanctuary and grand nature of the Imperial palace…every moment was so fascinating and every memory is a such a treasure.

We feel more and more adorable for the Imperial Palace now and
cannot stop thinking that it is such an honor for all of us to have this historical and royal area in the middle of Tokyo.

(Note:During the workforce, taking photos were not allowed. Therefore, group photos were taken before and after the labor . Together with this, the photos posted here were taken on another day as a visitor to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace.)

(posted by Nori)