Imperial House of Japan

Imperial House of Japan
Imperial Seal of Japan.svg
Country Japan
Founded11 February 660 BC[1]
Current headNaruhito
TitlesEmperor of Japan
Empress of Japan
Regent of Japan
Crown prince
Crown princess
Emperor Emeritus
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 or 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 male children.

The Japanese monarchy is claimed to be the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world.[3] The Imperial House recognizes 126 monarchs beginning with the legendary Emperor Jimmu (traditionally dated to 11 February 660 BC) and continuing up to the current emperor, Naruhito; 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

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko with their family in November 2013
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Members of the Imperial Family show themselves to the general public during celebrations for the new emperor's enthronement. Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko are not present (4 May 2019).

Article 5 of the Imperial Household Law (皇室典範, Kōshitsu Tenpan) defines the Imperial Family (皇族, kōzoku) 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, the eldest son of the Emperor Emeritus Akihito and the Empress Emerita Michiko, 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. On 1 May 2019, he ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne and became Emperor upon the abdication of his father.[7]
  • The Empress 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. She became Empress consort upon her husband's succession to the throne on 30 April 2019.[7]
    • Princess Toshi was born 1 December 2001, and is the only daughter of Emperor Naruhito and Empress consort Masako.

The Emperor Emeritus 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, and was succeeded by Naruhito after he abdicated on 30 April 2019.[8]
The Empress Emerita was born in Tokyo on 20 October 1934, the eldest daughter of Hidesaburo Shōda, president and honorary chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Inc..[8]

  • Crown Prince Akishino, the Emperor Emeritus' second son, was born on 30 November 1965 in the Hospital of the Imperial Household in Tokyo. 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]
  • Crown Princess Akishino was born on 11 September 1966, the daughter of Tatsuhiko Kawashima, professor of economics at Gakushuin University.[9] Crown Prince and Princess Akishino have two daughters and a son:

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]
Princess Hitachi was born on 19 July 1940, the daughter of former Count Yoshitaka Tsugaru. Prince and Princess Hitachi have no children.[10]
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 a great-uncle of Emperor Naruhito. 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 second cousin of Emperor Naruhito. 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:
  • Princess Takamado is the widow of Prince Takamado (29 December 1954 – 21 November 2002), the third son of the Prince and Princess Mikasa and a second cousin of Emperor Naruhito. 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

The Japanese Imperial Family tree as of May 2019.

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 TaishōEmpress Teimei
Emperor ShōwaEmpress KōjunPrince MikasaPrincess Mikasa
The Emperor EmeritusThe Empress EmeritaPrince HitachiPrincess HitachiFive daughters
2, 3, 4, 5
Prince Tomohito of MikasaPrincess Tomohito of MikasaPrince KatsuraPrince TakamadoPrincess TakamadoTwo daughters
1, 2
The EmperorThe EmpressCrown Prince AkishinoCrown Princess AkishinoSayako KurodaPrincess Akiko of MikasaPrincess Yōko of MikasaPrincess Tsuguko of TakamadoTwo daughters
1, 2
Princess ToshiPrincess MakoPrincess KakoPrince Hisahito