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Imperial House of Japan
""Imperial Seal of Japan.svg
Country "Japan
Ethnicity "Japanese
Founded "11 February 660 BC[1]
Founder "Jimmu[1]
Current head "Akihito
Titles "Emperor of Japan
"Empress of Japan
"Regent of Japan
"Crown Prince
"Crown Princess
Religion "Shinto
Cadet branches House of Akishino
House of Hitachi
House of Mikasa
House of Takamado

The Imperial House of Japan (皇室, kōshitsu), also referred to as the Imperial Family and the Yamato Dynasty[2], comprises those members of the extended family of the reigning "Emperor of Japan who undertake official and public duties. Under the present "Constitution of Japan, the Emperor is "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people". Other members of the imperial family perform ceremonial and social duties, but have no role in the affairs of government. The duties as an Emperor are passed down the line to their children and so on.

The "Japanese "monarchy is the "oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world.[3] The imperial house recognizes 125 "monarchs beginning with the legendary "Emperor Jimmu (traditionally dated to 11 February 660 BC) and continuing up to the current emperor, "Akihito; see its "family tree.

Historical evidence for the first 29 emperors is marginal by modern standards, but there is firm evidence for the hereditary line since "Emperor Kinmei ascended the throne 1,500 years ago.[4]


List of current members[edit]

The Emperor and Empress with their family in November 2013
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Article 5 of the "Imperial Household Law (皇室典範, Kōshitsu Tenpan) defines the imperial family (皇族) as the "Empress (皇后, kōgō); the "Grand empress dowager (太皇太后, tai-kōtaigō); the "Empress dowager (皇太后, kōtaigō); the Emperor's legitimate sons and legitimate grandsons in the legitimate male-line (親王, shinnō), and their consorts (親王妃, shinnōhi); the Emperor's unmarried legitimate daughters and unmarried legitimate granddaughters in the legitimate male-line (内親王, naishinnō); the Emperor's other legitimate male descendants in the third and later generations in the legitimate male-line (, ō) and their consorts (王妃, ōhi); and the Emperor's other unmarried legitimate female descendants in the third and later generations in the legitimate male-line (女王, joō).[5] In English, shinnō and ō are both translated as "prince" as well as shinnōhi, naishinnō, ōhi and joō as "princess".

After the removal of "11 collateral branches from the Imperial House in October 1947, the official membership of the imperial family has effectively been limited to the male line descendants of the "Emperor Taishō, excluding females who married outside the imperial family and their descendants.

There are currently 19 members of the Imperial Family:[6]

"The Princess Mikasa is the widow of "the Prince Mikasa (2 December 1915 – 27 October 2016), the fourth son of "Emperor Taishō and "Empress Teimei and an uncle of Emperor Akihito. The Princess was born on 4 June 1923, the second daughter of Viscount Masanori Takagi. Princess Mikasa has two daughters and three sons with the late Prince Mikasa.[11]

Family tree[edit]

The following family tree shows the lineage of the contemporary members of the Imperial family (living members in bold). Princesses who left the imperial family upon their marriage are indicated in italics:[6]

"Emperor Taishō
"Empress Teimei
"Emperor Shōwa
"Empress Kōjun
"The Prince Mikasa
"The Princess Mikasa
"The Emperor
"The Empress
"The Prince Hitachi
"The Princess Hitachi
Five daughters
"2, "3, "4, "5
"Prince Tomohito of Mikasa
"Princess Tomohito of Mikasa
"The Prince Katsura
"The Prince Takamado
"The Princess Takamado
Two daughters
"1, "2
"The Crown Prince
"The Crown Princess
"The Prince Akishino
"The Princess Akishino
"Sayako Kuroda
"Princess Akiko of Mikasa
"Princess Yōko of Mikasa
"Princess Tsuguko of Takamado
"Noriko Senge
"Princess Ayako of Takamado
"The Princess Toshi
"Princess Mako of Akishino
"Princess Kako of Akishino
"Prince Hisahito of Akishino

Living former members[edit]

Under the terms of the 1947 "Imperial Household Law, naishinnō (imperial princesses) and Joō (princesses) lose their titles and membership in the imperial family upon marriage, unless they marry the Emperor or another member of the imperial family. Four of the five daughters of "Emperor Shōwa, the two daughters of "Prince Mikasa, the only daughter of the "Emperor Akihito and most recently, the second daughter of "Prince Takamado, left the imperial family upon marriage, joining the husband's family and thus taking the surname of the husband. The eldest daughter of Emperor Shōwa married the eldest son of "Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni in 1943. The "Higashikuni family lost its imperial status along with the other collateral branches of the imperial family in October 1947. The living former imperial princesses are:

In addition to these former princesses, there are also several people of Imperial descent in eight of the eleven "cadet branches of the dynasty ("Asaka, "Fushimi, "Higashifushimi, "Higashikuni, "Kan'in, "Kaya, "Kitashirakawa, "Kuni, "Nashimoto, "Takeda, and "Yamashina) that left the imperial family in October 1947. The Nashimoto collateral branch became extinct in the male line in 1951, followed by the Yamashina and Kan'in branches in 1987 and 1988. The Emperor Shōwa's eldest daughter, "Shigeko Higashikuni, and his third daughter, "Kazuko Takatsukasa, died in 1961 and 1989, respectively.


Members of the Imperial Family during the New Year's Greeting at the Tokyo Imperial Palace in 2011

Historically, the "succession to the "Chrysanthemum Throne has generally passed in male line of the imperial lineage. The imperial clan previously included specially designated collateral lines or "shinnōke (princely houses), too. The surviving "shinnōke and several other branches of the extended imperial clan (the "ōke) were reduced to commoner status in 1947.

Before the "Meiji Restoration, Japan had eight female tennō or reigning empresses, all of them daughters of male line of the imperial clan. None ascended purely as a wife or as a widow of an emperor. None of these empresses married or gave birth after ascending the throne.

Article 2 of the "Constitution of Japan provides that "the Imperial Throne shall be dynastic and succeeded to in accordance with the Imperial Household Law passed by the Diet." "The Imperial Household Law of 1947 enacted by the 92nd and last session of the Imperial Diet, retained the exclusion on female dynasts found in the 1889 law. The government of Prime Minister "Shigeru Yoshida hastily cobbled together the legislation to bring the Imperial House in compliance with the American-written "Constitution of Japan that went into effect in May 1947. In an effort to control the size of the imperial family, the law stipulates that only legitimate male descendants in the male line can be dynasts; that naishinnō (imperial princesses) and joō (princesses) lose their status as imperial family-members if they marry outside the imperial family; that shinnō (imperial princes), other than the crown prince, ō (princes), unmarried imperial princes and princesses, and the widows of imperial princes and princesses may, upon their own request or in the event of special circumstances, renounce their membership in the imperial family with approval of the Imperial House Council; and that the Emperor and other members of the imperial family may not adopt children.

Before September 2006, there was a potential succession crisis since no male child had been born into the imperial family since Prince Akishino in 1965. Following the birth of "Princess Toshi, there was some public debate about amending the Imperial House Law to allow female descendants of an emperor and their descendants to succeed to the throne. In January 2005, Prime Minister "Koizumi Junichiro appointed a special panel of judges, university professors, and civil servants to study changes to the Imperial House Law and to make recommendations to the government. On October 25, 2005, the commission recommended amending the law to allow females in the male line of imperial descent to succeed to the throne. Since the birth of a son to another of Akihito's children the issue has been left in abeyance by both the public and successive governments.

History of titles[edit]

The Japanese Imperial Family in 1900

Ō (王) is a title (literally "king", commonly translated "prince") given to male members of the Japanese Imperial Family who do not have the higher title of "shinnō (親王; literally "close-relative king", commonly translated "prince" or "imperial prince"). The female equivalent is joō/nyoō (女王; literally "female king" or "queen", commonly translated ""princess") who do not have the higher title of naishinnō (内親王; literally "inner close-relative king", commonly translated "princess" or "imperial princess"). Ō can also be translated as "king" when it refers to a monarch of a kingdom. The origin of this double meaning is a copying of the "Chinese pattern where a "king" is a title for noble persons under the emperor: imperial family members, high-ranking feudal lords, and foreign monarchs (excluding some strong monarchs equivalent to Chinese emperor). Unlike in China, however, ō was only used for imperial family members and foreign monarchs (except the former Korean emperor and his successors).

Historically, any male member of the Imperial Family was titled ō or by default, with shinnō being special titles granted by the "Emperor. After the "Meiji Restoration, the difference between ō and shinnō was altered. Under the new rule, a shinnō or naishinnō was a legitimate male-line Imperial Family member descended from an Emperor down to the great-great-grandchild. The term "legitimate Imperial Family" excludes the descendants of anyone who renounced their membership in the Imperial Family, or were expelled from the Imperial Family. Shinnō also included the heads of any of the "shinnō-ke (親王家: shinnō family). A provision of law which never had an opportunity to be applied also stipulated that if the head of a shinnōke succeeded to the "Chrysanthemum Throne, then his brothers would acquire the title of shinnō, as well as their descendants (down to the great-grandchildren). The Emperor could also specially grant the title of shinnō to any ō.

In 1947, the law was changed so that shinnō and naishinnō only extended to the legitimate male-line grandchildren of an Emperor. The Imperial Family was also drastically pruned, disestablishing the ō-ke and the shinnō-ke. The consort of an ō or shinnō has the suffix -hi (妃; female consort) to ō or shinnō, that is, ōhi (王妃) or shinnōhi (親王妃).

In 2017, a one-off law permitting "the Emperor to abdicate was passed by the Diet effective April 30, 2019. Once the process is complete, he will have the revived title of "Jōkō."

Imperial standards[edit]

See also[edit]

Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ a b According to "legend, Jimmu founded Japan in 660 BC, becoming Japan's first emperor and member of the Imperial House.
  2. ^ Seagrave, Sterling; Seagrave, Peggy (2001). The Yamato Dynasty: The Secret History of Japan's Imperial Family. "Broadway Books. p. 15. "ISBN "978-0-7679-0497-1. 
  3. ^ D.M. (2 June 2017). "Why is the Japanese monarchy under threat?". "The Economist. Retrieved 4 June 2017. 
  4. ^ Hoye, Timothy (1999). Japanese Politics: Fixed and Floating Worlds. p. 78. According to legend, the first Japanese emperor was Jimmu. Along with the next 13 emperors, Jimmu is not considered an actual, historical figure. Historically verifiable Emperors of Japan date from the early sixth century with Kimmei 
  5. ^ "The Imperial House Law". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Genealogy of the Imperial Family". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino and their family". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Hitachi". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  11. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa and their family". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado and her family". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  13. ^ a b "Personal Histories of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa and their family". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  14. ^ "Personal Histories of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  15. ^ "Personal Histories of Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado and her family". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 5 January 2017. 

External links[edit]

Imperial House of Japan
First ruling house "Ruling House of "Japan
660 BC–present
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