Imperial House of Japan

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Imperial House of Japan
Imperial Seal of Japan.svg
Country Japan
Parent houseYamato
TitlesEmperor of Japan
Empress of Japan
Regent of Japan
Crown Prince
Crown Princess
Founded11 February 660 BC[1]
FounderJimmu[1]
Current headAkihito
EthnicityJapanese
Cadet branchesAkishino-no-miya
Hitachi-no-miya
Mikasa-no-miya
Katsura-no-miya
Takamado-no-miya
 
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Imperial House of Japan
Imperial Seal of Japan.svg
Country Japan
Parent houseYamato
TitlesEmperor of Japan
Empress of Japan
Regent of Japan
Crown Prince
Crown Princess
Founded11 February 660 BC[1]
FounderJimmu[1]
Current headAkihito
EthnicityJapanese
Cadet branchesAkishino-no-miya
Hitachi-no-miya
Mikasa-no-miya
Katsura-no-miya
Takamado-no-miya

The Imperial House of Japan (皇室 kōshitsu?), also referred to as the Imperial Family and the Yamato dynasty, 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 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 children and their children's children and so on.

The Japanese monarchy is the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world. The imperial house recognizes 125 monarchs beginning with the legendary Emperor Jimmu (traditionally dated to February 11, 660 BC) and continuing up to the current emperor, Akihito; see its family tree. However, there is no historical evidence for the genealogical relationships, and in most cases even the existence, of the first 25 emperors.

List of current members[edit]

The Imperial Family on the occasion of the Emperor's Birthday at the Tokyo Imperial Palace in 2005
Japanese Imperial Family
Imperial Seal of Japan.svg


HIH The Prince Mikasa
HIH The Princess Mikasa

Imperial Seal of Japan.svg
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Article 5 of the Imperial Household Law (皇室典範 Kōshitsu Tempan?) defines the imperial family (皇族?) as the empress (皇后 kōgō?); the empress dowager (皇太后 kōtaigō?); the grand empress dowager (太皇太后 tai-kōtaigō?); Emperor's legitimate sons and legitimate grandsons in the legitimate male-line (親王 shinnō?) and their consorts (親王妃 shinnōhi?); Emperor's unmarried legitimate daughters and unmarried legitimate granddaughters in the legitimate male-line (内親王 naishinnō?); Emperor's other male descendants in the legitimate male-line ( ō?) and their consorts (王妃 ōhi?); and the Emperor's other unmarried female descendants in the legitimate male-line (女王 joō?).[2] 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 presently 22 members of the Imperial Family:[3]

The Prince Mikasa was born on 2 December 1915, the fourth son of the Emperor Taishō and Empress Teimei. He is the surviving brother of Emperor Shōwa and the surviving paternal uncle of Emperor Akihito. His childhood title was Prince Sumi (Sumi-no-miya). He received the title Prince Mikasa and permission to start a new branch of the imperial family on 2 December 1935. He married on 22 October 1941.[8]
The Princess Mikasa was born on 6 June 1923, the second daughter of Viscount Masanori Takagi. Prince and Princess Mikasa have two daughters and three sons.[8]

Family tree[edit]

The following family tree shows the lineage of the current members of the Imperial family (living members in bold). Princesses who left the imperial family upon their marriage are indicated in italics:[3]


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Emperor Taishō
 
Empress Teimei
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Emperor Shōwa
 
Empress Kōjun
 
 
 
The Prince Chichibu
 
The Princess Chichibu
 
 
 
 
The Prince Takamatsu
 
The Princess Takamatsu
 
 
 
The Prince Mikasa
 
The Princess Mikasa
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Emperor
 
The Empress
 
The Prince Hitachi
 
The Princess Hitachi
 
Five daughters 1, 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
 
Princess Noriko of Takamado
 
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, and most recently, the only daughter of the Emperor Akihito left the imperial family upon marriage, taking the surnames of their husbands. 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 the eleven cadet branches of the dynasty (Asaka, Fushimi, Higashi-Fushimi, Higashi-kuni, Kan'in, Kaya, Kitashirakawa, Kuni, Nashimoto, Takeda, and Yamashina) that left the imperial family in October 1947. The Emperor Shōwa's eldest daughter, Shigeko Higashikuni, and his third daughter, Kazuko Takatsukasa, died in 1961 and 1989, respectively.

Succession[edit]

Members of the Imperial Family and the new year greeting 2011 at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

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 princesses and princesses, and the widows of imperial princes and princes 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 male 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 were 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 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 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).

Imperial Standards[edit]

See also[edit]

The Imperial Family and the new year greeting 2012 at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Related terms[edit]

References[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. ^ "The Imperial House Law". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Genealogy of the Imperial Family". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Hitachi". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "Her Imperial Highness Princess Tomohito of Mikasa". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  10. ^ "His Imperial Highness Prince Katsura". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "Personal Histories of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "Personal Histories of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress". kunaicho.go.jp. Retrieved 16 October 2012. 

External links[edit]

Imperial House of Japan
Preceded by
None
Ruling House of Japan
660 BC–present
Succeeded by
Incumbent