There are only two days a year that people are allowed to enter the Imperial Palace, the emperors birthday (Dec. 23rd) and Jan. 2nd (for New Years). We timed our Japan trip to see the emperor in person, with thousands of other people of course.
My original plan was to leave our bags at the train station but they only had small coin lockers. Plan B, which I was fine with, was to carry our bags until we were done at the Imperial Palace (we were getting on a train to Osaka immediately after). No one else was okay with this plan (in fact I think everyone wanted to murder me) but I was saved. They had bag checkers there at the entrance to the palace (for free). We didn't even think about the fact that we would not be allowed to carry our bags inside the palace.
Sometimes life just works out.
It was quite an event to get inside the palace. It was unsurprisingly very organized (this is Japan after all), and all of the excited Japanese were very patient while waiting in the long line (it took about 40 minutes to get inside).
When the emperor came out everyone (including us) waved our Nippon flags and shouted 'bonsai!!'.
The emperors speech was short and sweet, I later looked up a translated version. He thanked everyone for continuing to support the tsunami victims and he wished for peace on earth.
This was definitely a highlight of the trip. Not very many Japanese people have seen the emperor, let alone very many tourists. In fact, a lot of people do not know that this event is even an option.