National Diet Building
The Parliament of Japan in Tokyo
The National Diet Building is located in the historical heart of Tokyo, in central Chiyoda Ward. A political center and primary legislative body of the country, it has been sheltering the 2 houses of the Japanese Parliament since 1936. Guided tours of its premises attract the general public and school trips.
Japan’s current constitution entered into force on May 3, 1947, at the end of WWII and during the American occupation. The country underwent a political regime change and became a constitutional parliamentary monarchy. The emperor is still the symbolic head of the nation but the actual power is in the hands of the Prime Minister of Japan.
The latter is chosen by the National Diet, that is to say the Japanese Parliament, that holds the legislative power. This 2-chambers parliament is composed of:
- The House of Councilors (upper house) called Sangiin in Japanese; and,
- The House of Representatives (lower house) called Shugiin in Japanese.
The elected representatives sit at the National Diet Building, located in Chiyoda Ward at the center of Tokyo. The building, of an early 20th century modern architecture, was inaugurated in November 1936 after 17 years of construction works. The white stones and the colonnade facade are complemented by:
- A central 9-story squared tower; and,
- 2 symmetrical wings, on the right and on the left of the tower, of 3 floors for each of the Houses.
Free guided tour of one of the 2 parliament houses
After a stroll in the Imperial Palace gardens, you can continue to explore Japan’s places of power in a guided tour of the National Diet Building located in the same historical area. From the street, you can spot the massive building at the end of an alley planted with gingkos trees that turn into a golden yellow in autumn 🍁.
Upon (free) registration and after completing the security and ID controls, the tour begins at the back of the building, and explores one of the 2 parliamentary houses. There are indeed 2 kinds of tours, depending if you chose the one organized by the House of Councilors or by the House of Representatives:
- The House of Councilors offers 8 tours per day, without the requirement of booking in advance, but all guided tours are provided in Japanese only.
- The House of Representatives has English guided tours, but only once a day, in the early afternoon and upon prior reservation and e-mail confirmation of the booking.
The House of Councilors tour is therefore the most convenient, and the one the Japanese chose, especially classes in a school trip. Thus, and even if you don’t speak Japanese, we recommend to chose this tour as it is easier to plan, and certainly the most authentic. Note that an English language paper leaflet is available on site, as well as in the PDF format on the official website (see the link in the Official Website and Information section below)
During 1 hours, visitors are guided through rooms and corridors decorated from floor (in marble and protected by a red carpet) to ceiling, with beautiful stained glass windows filtering the natural light. The solemn highlight of the visit is the House of Councilors’ large half-circle chamber. Visitors are placed in the press tribune and have a view on the central podium where stands the Chamber’s President seat, and right behind it, the throne the Emperor uses when he presides over the Opening Ceremony of plenary sittings. Then, visitors are guided to the Emperor’s richly ornamented office, protected by a glass wall, then to the majestic stairway in the central tower. The tour ends outside in front of the Diet Building in the garden where trees originating from each prefecture of Japan are growing.
Pictures are allowed throughout the visit and we recommend arriving about half an hour before the start of the guided tour, so as to leisurely complete the security checks at the entrance of this high security building of an utmost importance for the country.