Imperial House of Japan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Imperial House of Japan
Country Japan
Founded11 February 660 BC[1]
Current headAkihito
TitlesEmperor of Japan
Empress of Japan
Regent of Japan
Crown Prince
Crown Princess
Cadet branchesHouse 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 claimed to be 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
Imperial Seal of Japan.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Flag of Japan.svg Japan portal

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 18 members of the Imperial Family:[6]

  • The Emperor was born at Tokyo Imperial Palace on 23 December 1933, the elder son and fifth child of the Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kōjun. He was married on 10 April 1959 to Michiko Shōda. Emperor Akihito succeeded his father as emperor on 7 January 1989.[7]
  • The Empress, formerly Michiko Shōda, was born in Tokyo on 20 October 1934, the eldest daughter of Hidesaburo Shōda, president and honorary chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Inc..[7]
    • The Crown Prince, the eldest son of the Emperor and the Empress, was born in the Hospital of the Imperial Household in Tokyo on 23 February 1960. He became heir apparent upon his father's accession to the throne. Crown Prince Naruhito was married on 9 June 1993 to Masako Owada.[8]
    • The Crown Princess was born on 9 December 1963, the daughter of Hisashi Owada, a former vice minister of foreign affairs and former permanent representative of Japan to the United Nations.[8] The Crown Prince and Crown Princess have one daughter:
    • The Prince Akishino, the Emperor's second son, and second on the succession line, was born on 30 November 1965. His childhood title was Prince Aya. He received the title Prince Akishino and permission to start a new branch of the imperial family upon his marriage to Kiko Kawashima on 29 June 1990.[9]
    • The Princess Akishino was born on 11 September 1966, the daughter of Tatsuhiko Kawashima, professor of economics at Gakushuin University.[9] Prince and Princess Akishino have two daughters and a son:
  • The Prince Hitachi was born on 28 November 1935, the second son and sixth child of the Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kojun. His childhood title was Prince Yoshi. He received the title Prince Hitachi and permission to set up a new branch of the imperial family on 1 October 1964, the day after his wedding.[10]
  • The Princess Hitachi was born on 19 July 1940, the daughter of former Count Yoshitaka Tsugaru. Prince and Princess Hitachi have no children.[10]

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]

  • Princess Tomohito of Mikasa is the widow of Prince Tomohito of Mikasa (5 January 1946 – 6 June 2012), the eldest son of the Prince and Princess Mikasa and a first cousin of Emperor Akihito. The Princess was born on 9 April 1955, the daughter of Takakichi Asō, chairman of Asō Cement Co., and his wife, Kazuko, a daughter of former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.[11] She has two daughters with the late Prince Tomohito of Mikasa:
  • The Princess Takamado is the widow of the Prince Takamado (29 December 1954 – 21 November 2002), the third son of the Prince and Princess Mikasa and a first cousin of Emperor Akihito. The Princess was born 10 July 1953, the eldest daughter of Shigejiro Tottori. She married the prince on 6 December 1984. Originally known as Prince Norihito of Mikasa, he received the title Prince Takamado and permission to start a new branch of the imperial family on 1 December 1984.[12] Princess Takamado has three daughters, one of whom remains a member of the Imperial family:

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
Two daughters
1, 2
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 and third 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:

  • Atsuko Ikeda (born 7 March 1931), fourth daughter and fourth child of Emperor Shōwa and surviving elder sister of Emperor Akihito.
  • Takako Shimazu (born 2 March 1939), fifth daughter and youngest child of Emperor Shōwa and younger sister of Emperor Akihito.
  • Yasuko Konoe (born 26 April 1944), eldest daughter and eldest child of Prince and Princess Mikasa.[13]
  • Masako Sen (born 23 October 1951), second daughter and fourth child of Prince and Princess Mikasa.[13]
  • Sayako Kuroda (born 18 April 1969), third child and only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.[14]
  • Noriko Senge (born 22 July 1988), second daughter of Prince and Princess Takamado.[15]
  • Ayako Moriya (born 15 September 1990), third daughter of Prince and Princess Takamado.

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.

Finances of the Imperial Family[edit]


The Japanese monarchy was considered to be among the wealthiest in the world until the end of World War II.[16] Before 1911, there was no distinction between the Imperial Crown Estates and the Emperor's personal properties. When the Imperial Property Law was enacted on January 1911, two categories were established namely hereditary (crown estates) and personal property of the imperial family. The Imperial Household Minister had the responsibility for observing any judicial proceedings concerning imperial holdings. According to the law, imperial properties were only taxable if there was no conflict with the Imperial House Law. However, crown estates could only be used for public or imperially-sanctioned undertakings. Personal properties of certain members of the imperial family, in addition to properties held for imperial family members who were minors, were exempted from taxation. Such as Empress Dowager, the Empress, Crown Prince and Crown Princess, the Imperial Grandson and the consort of the Imperial Grandson.[17]

Up to 1921, the Imperial Crown Estates comprised 1,112,535.58 acres (450,227.18 ha). In 1921, due to the poor economic situation in Japan, 289,259.25 acres (117,059.07 ha) of crown lands (26%) were sold or transferred to the Japanese government and the private sector. In 1930, the Nagoya Detached Palace (Nagoya Castle) was donated to the city of Nagoya and six other imperial villas were sold or donated.[17] In 1939, Nijō Castle was donated to the city of Kyoto. The former Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa shogunate which became an imperial palace in the Meiji Restoration, was donated to the city of Kyoto.

At the end of 1935, the Imperial Court owned 3,111,965 acres (1,259,368 ha) landed estates according to official government figures. 2,599,548 acres (1,052,000 ha) of that was the Emperor's private lands. The total landholdings of the crown estates was 512,161 acres (207,264 ha). It comprised palace complexes, forest and farm lands and other residential and commercial properties. The total economic value of the imperial properties was estimated at ¥650 million in 1935 which is approximately US$195 million at prevailing exchange rates and US$19.9 billion in 2017.[note 1][17][18] Emperor Hirohito's personal fortune was an additional hundreds of millions of yen (estimated over US$6 billion in 2017). It included numerous family heirlooms and furnishings, purebred livestock and investments in major Japanese firms, such as the Bank of Japan, other major Japanese banks, the Imperial Hotel and Nippon Yusen.[17]

After World War II, all of the collateral branches of the imperial family were abolished under the Allied occupation of Japan and the subsequent constitutional reforms imposed under Allied supervision, forced those families to sell their assets to private or government owners. Staff numbers in the imperial households were slashed from roughly 6000 to about 1000. The Imperial Estates and the Emperor's personal fortune (then estimated at US$17.15 million in 1946, or roughly US$625 million in 2017 terms) were transferred to state or private ownership with the exception of 6,810 acres (2,760 ha) of landholdings. The largest imperial divestments were the former imperial Kiso and Amagi forest lands in Gifu and Shizuoka prefectures, grazing lands for livestock in Hokkaido and a stock farm in the Chiba region. They were all transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Imperial property holdings were further reduced since 1947 after several handovers to the government. Since the 1947 constitutional reforms, the imperial family has been supported by an official civil list sanctioned by the Japanese government. When Emperor Hirohito passed away, he left a personal fortune of £11 million in 1989.[19] In 2017, Emperor Akihito had an estimated net worth of US$40 million.[20]


Panorama of the Tokyo Imperial Palace

Currently the primary imperial properties are the Tokyo Imperial Palace and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The estimated landholdings is 6,810 acres (2,760 ha). The Tōgū Palace is located in the larger Akasaka Estate where numerous other imperial family members reside. There are privately used imperial villas in Hayama, Nasu and the Suzaki Imperial Villa in Shimoda. The Katsura Imperial Villa, Shugakuin Imperial Villa and Sentō Imperial Palace are in Kyoto. There are a number of imperial farms, residences and game preserves.[19][21] The Imperial Household Agency administers the Shosoin Imperial Repository in Nara.[22] The imperial palaces are owned by the State of Japan.[23]


The reigning Emperor of Japan can spend £150 million ($197 million) of public money annually. The imperial palaces are all owned and paid for by the State of Japan.[23]

Until 2003, facts about the Japanese Imperial Family's life and finances were kept secret behind the "Chrysanthemum Curtain." Yohei Mori (former royal correspondent for the Mainichi Shimbun and assistant professor of journalism at Seijo University) revealed details about finances of the Imperial Family in his book based on 200 documents that were published with the public information law.[23]


The Japanese Imperial Family has a staff of more than 1,000 people (47 servants per royal). This includes a 24-piece orchestra (gagaku) with thousand-year-old instruments such as the koto and the sho, 30 gardeners, 25 chefs, 40 chauffeurs as well as 78 builders, plumbers and electricians. There are 30 archaeologists to protect the 895 imperial tombs. There is a silkworm breeder of the Momijiyama Imperial Cocoonery. The Emperor has four doctors on standby 24 hours a day, five men manage his wardrobe and 11 assist in Shinto rites.[23]

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo has 160 servants who maintain it. This is partly due to demarcation rules such as a maid who wipes a table cannot also wipe the floor. There are separate stewards in charge of handling silverware and the crystal. The Kyoto Imperial Palace has a staff of 78 people. There are also 67 who care for the horses at the Tochigi ranch. There are scores of additional staff for the summer palaces at the beach and in the mountains.[23]


The Imperial Palace has a £2 million-a-year clinic with 42 staff and 8 medical departments, but it receives just 28 visitors per day. An example of lavish spending is the prior redecoration of a room for £140,000 where Crown Princess Masako gave birth to Princess Aiko in 2001. Emperor Akihito spent £140,000 on building a wine cellar. It has 4,500 bottles of 11 types of white wine and seven types of red such as Chateau Mouton Rothschild (1982) and champagne Dom Perignon (1992).[23]

The imperial properties includes a 622 acres (252 ha) farm which supplies produce and meat for the imperial family. The farm costs are £3 million per year (2003). The emperor and his family have a monthly water bill of approximately £50,000 (2003).

The Imperial Guard (Japan) is a special over 900 strong police force that provides personal protection for the Emperor and other members of the Imperial Family of Japan including their residences for £48 million per year.[21]

There is a limitation with travel expenses since the emperor's entourage pays a maximum of £110 a night, regardless of the actual cost of the hotel. Hotels accept it, because they don't want to lose the honor of hosting the Imperial Family.[23]

Aside from the inner court (the emperor and empress, their children including the crown prince and crown princess), the civil list covers an additional 19 family members who live in imperial residences. They are not prohibited from holding jobs or run businesses. For example, Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, and his wife and two daughters receive £310,000 per year, but they aren't well known by the Japanese public and have few royal duties.[23]

The real annual cost is estimated to be $325 million per year (2003). Per head the Japanese Imperial Family costs almost twice as much as British royals.[23]

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". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Genealogy of the Imperial Family". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino and their family". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Hitachi". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa and their family". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado and her family". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  13. ^ a b "Personal Histories of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa and their family". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  14. ^ "Personal Histories of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  15. ^ "Personal Histories of Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado and her family". Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Legacy of Hirohito". The Times. 3 May 1989.
  17. ^ a b c d "Japan - The Imperial Court". The Japan-Manchoukuo Year Book. The Japan-Manchoukuo Year Book Co. 1938. pp. 50–51.
  18. ^ pp. 332–333, "Exchange and Interest Rates", Japan Year Book 1938–1939, Kenkyusha Press, Foreign Association of Japan, Tokyo
  19. ^ a b Reed, Christopher (5 October 1971). "Few personal possessions for reigning monarch". The Times.
  20. ^ "Akihito Net Worth 2017: How Rich Is Japanese Emperor As Parliament Passed Historic Law For His Abdication". The International Business Times. June 9, 2017. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
  21. ^ a b Imperial Guard Home page
  22. ^ Kyoto National Museum | Her Majesty the Empress and the Sericulture of the Koishimaru Silkworm Archived 2008-08-15 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i Colin Joyce (7 September 2003). "Book lifts the lid on Emperor's high living". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on July 10, 2018. Retrieved 27 September 2018.


  1. ^ (¥650 million is US$195 million in 1935 and US$19.9 billion in 2017

External links[edit]

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