We followed the instructions and applied for the tour at 1:30pm that day. (Two tours available that day: 10am and 1:30pm. I knew well I woulnd't make the 10am tour.)
Took train to the Otemacho Station.
There were a LOT of exits at Otemacho Station... Actually there were a LOT of exits for the Imperial Palace... We picked one that seems the closes to the Imperial Palace entrnce, and off we went.
We estimated the time we needed and saw the outside of the Imperial Palace not long after we stepped out of the train station.
But we couldn't find the Kikyomon Gate, which was the gate we had to meet the tour guide. We asked a few business people that walked by, and no one knew where exactly it was.
It was past 1:30 and we almost gave up. The Imperal Palace ground was huge! We then walked along the outskirt of the Palace ground... and finally saw this:
We ran and ran toward the gate. A police officer waved and greeted us. We pulled out the tour permit that we printed out, along with our passports, to show another officer (while apologizing for arriving late.) She immediately got on the phone with somebody, and then instructed us to wait for a little bit.
We waited by this gate. The officer didn't say much more. I was afraid they wouldn't even let us in since we were late.
After a few minutes another officer walked toward us from the other side of the gate. He greeted us and the other officers. The other officers said a lot of things to him (that I had no clue what about) and then "introduced" us to him. He took over the permits, handed us a couple of headphone radio sets, and gestured to us to follow him!
We were so grateful when he guided us through the gate and a couple of heavy metal doors into the Imperial palace ground.