IMPORTANT! The rules regarding the visits can change with very short notice; visitors are requested to check with the official website for the latest updates. Information is provided in English.
The State Guest House was originally built as the Crown Prince's Palace back in 1909. This was a time when the western culture was entering Japan at a high rate and the country was making a rapid climb to becoming a modern nation.
Now used as the State Guest House, this has also been the location where the G7 Summit was held three times. Previously the State Guest House would open to the public a few days a year, but since April 2016 visitors are allowed in on a near-daily basis.
You'll get a feel of being in European palaces, but the pine trees in the front yard add a unique Japanese feel.
Where and when: The Palace is a short walk from Yotsuya Station, served by JR and the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi and Nanboku Lines. It can be reached by a direct train from both Shinjuku and Tokyo.
Visitors are accepted on most days excluding Wednesdays.
However when there are official visits, it might be closed.
The Cabinet Office provides updates in English. http://www.geihinkan.go.jp/geihinkan/akasaka/koukai_e.html
***The below mentioned procedures on entering no longer apply, as of 2019. Admission cards are no longer handed out; just head straight into the visitor entrance ("West Gate"). On busy days, visitors with reservation will have priority entrance.
How: The front garden can be entered from 10am-5pm on days when it is open to the public. No advance reservations are necessary. You can only see the exterior of the building.
To see the interior and the beautiful water fountain in the southern section of the building, there are two ways to do it. Note that there is a 1,000 yen admission fee.
1) Make reservations in advance from the Cabinet Office site.
You have to book more than a month in advance.
2) Be the first 1,000 people to arrive and receive an "Admission Card" (above)
The staff starts handing out the card at 8am. It will designate a time when you can enter. On weekdays, you can show up around 10:30 and still receive the card. It will designate a time you can go in, either 10am or 11am.
You enter from the West Gate, which is to the right of the main entrance. There is a bag inspection which is done quite strictly and if you are carrying drinks, the staff will ask you to take a sip just to make sure it's not toxic!
Once clearing security, you need to pay the admission fee from one of the vending machine. No credit cards, only 1,000 yen bills!
Photos of the interior are not allowed, though taking pictures of the outside is ok.