Because Windows only shows you what they think you should see, and other operating systems don't necessarily care and just show you what's on the disk. That is the gist of it.
It's not a Microsoft conspiracy; Microsoft protects Windows' system files from being damaged this way. You can access it if you know some fairly sophisticated tricks and manage to run explorer with "SYSTEM" permissions (these go above Administrator), or simply boot another operating system that does not implement these restrictions.
Sidenote: Viruses love these places. Almost every virus I've seen nested itself in System Volume Information, a folder in the root of each Windows drive where you cannot normally go without system permissions. Even the Administrator, who can usually get access to every file even if he denies himself all possible permissions on it, cannot go into that folder. Luckily anti-virus products also go there and they detect anything that shouldn't be there, but it's a caveat to keep in mind. For example I used to scan my computer from a remote machine with read-only permissions, but that is not enough because remotely (using SMB) you usually can't access these system protected folders.
If you want to protect people from simply reading what's on your harddrive, you need disk encryption (which will ask you for a password upon booting, just like a BIOS password would). Otherwise it will always be trivial to boot another OS and read the harddrive's contents. Even if you have a BIOS password, it's still fairly trivial to take the harddrive out. With most laptops and desktops, provided that noone is around, you can get a harddrive out, copy a few gigabytes, and put it all back within 5 minutes.