The Palace is a fortified, quiet realm of 600 acres set in the center of teeming Tokyo. To enter it one crosses a moat, passes through imposing stone walls and enters another time and consciousness.

Inside is a landscape of refined buildings, small roads and gardens. An intimate, but also industrious, atmosphere prevails. The many activities and events within the walls are centered on two things—the welfare of the Imperial family and the maintenance of Japan’s traditional arts and customs.

The assignment was to evoke this life. But much of the ceremonial life of the Palace was off limits to the writer Robert Poole and me. So first of all our job was to find a place within the walls where we were welcome. I found my place at the the Zen Archery Pavilion and in the Imperial bonsai garden. Photographing these places and the men who inhabited them gave me a start. From there I set about symbolizing (rather than actually seeing) the rich ceremonial life of the Imperial Palace.

Working in the Palace taught me something: Achieving intimacy had always been an essential element of my photography. And there is no intimacy without access. But symbolizing life—even Imperial life— is a high photographic calling and I grew by aspiring to live up to its possibilities.