Imperial Household Agency

Coordinates: 35°41′02″N 139°45′14″E / 35.684°N 139.754°E / 35.684; 139.754
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Imperial Household Agency

Imperial Household Agency headquarters in the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo
Agency overview
Formed1 June 1949 (1949-06-01)
Preceding agencies
Jurisdiction Japan
Headquarters1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8111, Japan
Annual budget¥11,577,442,000 (FY 2023)
Agency executives
Parent agencyCabinet Office

The Imperial Household Agency (宮内庁, Kunai-chō) (IHA) is an agency of the government of Japan in charge of state matters concerning the Imperial Family, and the keeping of the Privy Seal and State Seal of Japan. From around the 8th century AD until the Second World War, it was known as the Imperial Household Ministry (宮内省, Kunai-shō).

The Agency is unique among conventional government agencies and ministries in that it does not directly report to the Prime Minister at the cabinet level, nor is it affected by legislation that establishes it as an Independent Administrative Institution.[clarification needed]

Organization and functions[edit]

The Imperial Household Agency is headed by its Director-General, assisted by the Deputy Director, appointed by the Cabinet.[1] Its main organizational positions are:

The current Director-General is Yasuhiko Nishimura.

The Agency's headquarters is located in the grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The Agency's duties and responsibilities encompass the daily activities of the Imperial household, such as state visits, organised events, preservation of traditional culture and administrative functions, amongst other responsibilities. The Agency is responsible for the various Imperial residences located throughout Japan, and organises guided tours for visitors to the Tokyo Imperial Palace, the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the Katsura Detached Palace, and other residences and locations falling under its remit.

The Agency is responsible for the health, security and travel arrangements of the Imperial family, including maintaining the Imperial line. The Board of the Chamberlains, headed by the Grand Chamberlain, manages the daily life of the Emperor and the Empress, and is responsible for keeping the Privy Seal and State Seal of Japan. The Grand Master of the Board of the Crown Prince's Household helps manage the schedules, dining menus, and household maintenance of the Crown Prince and his family.[1]


The Ministry of the Imperial Household in Meiji era
The Imperial Household Agency building, located near the Sakashita gate of the palace

The Imperial Household Agency traces its origins back to institutions established by the Taihō Code (or more formally, "The Ritsuryō Code of the Taihō period" (大宝律令, Taihō Ritsuryō)) promulgated in 701–702 AD.[2] The Ritsuryō system established the namesake Ministry of the Imperial Household (宮内省, Kunai shō), a precursor to the present agency; the former code also gave rise to the Ministry of Ceremonial (式部省, Shikibu shō), which has its legacy in the Board of Ceremonies (式部職, Shikibu shoku) under the current agency, and the Ministry of Civil Administration (治部省, Jibu shō) which oversaw the Bureau of Music (雅楽寮, Uta ryō) that would now correspond to the Agency's Music Department (楽部, gakubu).[3] The basic structures remained in place until the Meiji Restoration (1868).[2]

Meiji period[edit]

The early Meiji government officially installed the Imperial Household Ministry (宮内省, Kunai shō) on 15 August 1869.[4] Though the names are occasionally differentiated in English as the "Imperial Household Agency", versus the former, Meiji period "Ministry of the Imperial Household", both names are rendered with no differentiation in Japanese. However, there is a convoluted history of reorganization around how the government bodies that correspond to constituent subdivisions of the current Agency were formed or empowered during this period.

The Department of Shinto Affairs (神祇官, Jingi kan) and later the Ministry of Divinities (神祇省, Jingi shō) (1871–1872) were briefly established, having been placed in charge of, for example, the Imperial mausolea [ja][5] under the Office of Imperial Mausolea (諸陵寮), one of the tasks designated to the Agency today.

Meanwhile, the Meiji government created the Board of Ceremonies (式部局, Shikibu-kyoku) in 1871, which was soon renamed Bureau of Ceremonies (式部寮, Shikibu-ryō) in 1872. Also in 1872, the Ministry of Divinities was abolished, with the bulk of duties moved to the Ministry of Religion (教部省, "Department (Ministry) of Religion and Education") and the administration of formal ceremonial functions transferred to the aforementioned Board/Bureau of the Ceremonies.[6][7][8][a]

The Bureau of the Ceremonies was initially placed under the care of the Great Council of State (太政官, Dajō kan), but was later transferred to the control of the Imperial Household Ministry in September 1877.[9] The Bureau underwent yet another name change to Board of Ceremonies (式部職, Shikibu-shoku) in October 1884.[9] Since then, the name has remained unchanged and is, today, headed by the Master of Ceremonies.

An Imperial Order in 1908 confirmed that the Imperial Household Minister, as the chief official was then called, held responsible for assisting the Emperor in all matters concerning the Imperial House.[2] The ministry also oversaw the official appointments of Imperial Household Artists and commissioned their work.

Imperial Household Office, 1947–1949[edit]

The Imperial Household Office (宮内府, Kunai-fu), a downgraded version of the ministry, was created pursuant to Imperial Household Office Law (宮内府法) Law No. 70 of 1947 during the American Occupation of Japan. Its number of staff was downscaled from 6,200 to less than 1,500, and the Office was placed under the Prime Minister of Japan.[2][10][b]

Imperial Household Agency, 1949–present[edit]

In 1949, Imperial Household Office was renamed to the Imperial Household Agency, and placed under the fold of the newly created Prime Minister's Office (総理府, Sōrifu), as an external agency attached to it.[2] In 2001, the Imperial Household Agency was organizationally re-positioned under the Cabinet Office (内閣府, Naikakufu).[2]


The Agency has been criticized for isolating members of the Imperial Family from the Japanese public, and for insisting on stiffly preserved customs, rather than permitting a more approachable, populist monarchy.

In May 2004, Crown Prince Naruhito criticised the then-Grand Steward of the Imperial Household, Toshio Yuasa, for putting pressure on Crown Princess Masako, Naruhito's wife, to bear a male child. At a press conference, Naruhito stated that his wife had "completely exhausted herself" trying to adapt to the Imperial family's life, and added "there were developments that denied Masako's career (up to our marriage) as well as her personality."[11][12][13] It has officially been stated that Masako is suffering from an "adjustment disorder", but there has been extensive speculation in the press that she is suffering from clinical depression as a result of her treatment by Imperial Household officials.[14]

Increasingly in recent years, the Agency's prevention of archaeological research regarding a large number (more than 740) of Kofun Period tombs claimed to be and designated as "Imperial" has come under criticism from academics. The tombs, located in the Kansai region of western Japan, are considered by many academics as potentially holding important historical information on the origins of Japanese civilization; however, the possibility that these potential finds could verify or further solidify theories of formative civilizational ties with contemporary civilizations in China and the Korean Peninsula, with these civilizations potentially having as much influence on the origins of the Imperial Household itself, is generally considered to be a considerable contributing factor to the ongoing prevention of archaeological research at these sites by the Imperial Household Agency, with a large number of the tombs considered by some to be imperial only in name.[15][16][17]

Grand Stewards[edit]

The Imperial Household Agency is headed by the Grand Steward (Imperial Household Agency Law [ja], Article 8-1), whose appointment or dismissal is subject to the Emperor's approval (Article 8-2).

The Grand Steward is vested with comprehensive control over administrative activities within the Agency, and supervisory authority over the service performance of the staff (8–3). He is empowered to interact with the Prime Minister on matters pertaining to the Agency's authorized duties, either requesting the issuance of Cabinet Office ordinances (8–3), or notifying him on pertinent matters (8–4). He has the authorization to hand down orders or directives to staff members of government organs under the agency's direct control (8–6), and may request the Commissioner General of the National Police Agency to take appropriate measures regarding administrative duties that involve the civilian Imperial Guard (皇宮警察, Kōgū Keisatsu).

The Grand Stewardship is a post customarily filled by former administrative vice-ministers [ja] (≒permanent secretaries) at one of several internal affairs (home affairs) type ministries and agencies, or someone with a closely approximating curriculum vitae (e.g., Superintendent General of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department), after having served as Vice-Grand Steward.

List of Grand Stewards
No. Portrait Name Term of office Ex-service Remarks
Grand Stewards of the Imperial Household Office
1 Matsudaira Yoshitami [ja] 3 May 1947 – 5 Jun 1948 Imperial Household Ministry
2 Michiji Tajima [ja] 5 Jun 1948 – 31 May 1949 Civilian
Grand Stewards of the Imperial Household Agency
1 Michiji Tajima 1 Jun 1949 – 16 Dec 1953 Civilian cont.
2 Takeshi Usami [ja] 16 Dec 1953 – 26 May 1978 Home Ministry
3 Tomohiko Tomita [ja] 26 May 1978 – 14 Jun 1988 National Police Agency
4 Shōichi Fujimori [ja] 14 Jun 1988 – 19 Jan 1996 Ministry of Welfare, Environment Agency
5 Sadame Kamakura [ja] 19 Jan 1996 – 2 Apr 2001 National Police Agency
6 Toshio Yuasa [ja] 2 Apr 2001 – 1 Apr 2005 Ministry of Home Affairs
7 Shingo Haketa 1 Apr 2005 – 1 Jun 2012 Ministry of Health
8 Noriyuki Kazaoka [ja] 1 Jun 2012 – 26 Sep 2016 Ministry of Construction
9 Shin'ichirō Yamamoto [ja] 26 Sep 2016 – 17 Dec 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs
10 Yasuhiko Nishimura [ja] 17 Dec 2019 – present National Police Agency

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kishimoto 1956 keeps calling it "Board of Ceremonies" instead of "Bureau" even after the name change.
  2. ^ In 1947, ahead of the new constitution the Imperial Household Act was promulgated, along with the Imperial Household Finance Law [ja] (Law No. 4 of 1947) and the Imperial Household Office Law (Law. No. 70 of 1947) 小森, 義峯 (Komori, Yoshimine) (1985). 天皇と憲法(Tennō to kenpō) (snippet). 皇學館大學出版部. p. 162. ASIN B000J6P1OK. ちなみに、皇室に関して新しく制定された法律としては、この「皇室典範」の外に、皇室経済法(昭和二二年法律四号)、宮内府法(昭和二二年法律七〇 号)などが存する。{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) Reprint 2002 ISBN 978-4-876-44081-8


  1. ^ a b c Imperial Household Agency: Organization
  2. ^ a b c d e f "History". Imperial Household Agency homepage. Retrieved 10 March 2019. 沿革 (Enkaku)(in Japanese)
  3. ^ Sansom, George Bailey (1932). "Early Japanese law and administration". Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan. Second Series. 9: 67–110.
  4. ^ Wilson, Robert Arden (1978). Genesis of the Meiji government in Japan, 1868–1871. Greenwood Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-837-19091-4.
  5. ^ Kishimoto, Hideo (1956). Japanese Religion in the Meiji Era (snippet). Ōbunsha. p. 59. ISBN 9784022561312. In addition to the Office of Propaganda, the Department of Shinto had the function of caring for Imperial mausolea
  6. ^ Kishimoto 1956, p. 65, "Within a year, the Department of Religion and Education (kyobu sho) superseded the Shinto Ministry."
  7. ^ Kishimoto 1956, p. 69, "The actual directive which abolished the Shinto Ministry on April 21, 1872, read in part as follows: 'Let the purely formal functions be transferred to the Board of Ceremonies, while the Department of Religion and Education take over the duties ...'"
  8. ^ Thal, Sarah (2005). Rearranging the Landscape of the Gods: The Politics of a ... (snippet). University of Chicago Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-226-79421-1.
  9. ^ a b 薗田, 正觀 (Haseyama, Masami ) (1979). 宗敎法槪論 (Shūkyōhō gairon) (snippet). 河出書房新社. p. 235. 式部寮は太政官に属したが、十年九月宮内省に転じ、十七年十月式部寮は式部職に改められた。{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ 大蔵省印刷局 (National Printing Bureau), ed. (18 April 1947). "法律". 官報 (Kanpō "Official Bulletin") (6076). Archived from the original (NDL) on 17 March 2016. (Text of Imperial Household Act) Article 13 stipulates authority under premier.
  11. ^ The Future of Japan's Monarchy, Time Asia Magazine
  12. ^ Imperial family exposed to media speculation in 2004, Japan Policy and Politics, 10 January 2005
  13. ^ Crown prince back in Japan, will not meet press, Japan Policy and Politics, 24 May 2004
  14. ^ About a boy: Dynasty, Japan-style Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent on Sunday, 8 July 2007
  15. ^ Hudson, M. (1999). Ruins of Identity: Ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.
  16. ^ Oguma,E. (2002). A Genealogy of 'Japanese' Self-images (translated by David Askew). Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press.
  17. ^ Edwards, W. (2000). Contested access: The Imperial tombs in the postwar period. Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, 371–392.


Further reading[edit]

  • Kokusai Kyōiku Jōhō Sentā. (1986). The Imperial Family of Japan. Tokyo: International Society for Educational Information. OCLC 24145536

External links[edit]

35°41′02″N 139°45′14″E / 35.684°N 139.754°E / 35.684; 139.754