House of Peers


Coat of arms or logo
House of Peers, 1915
Established6 March 1871
Disbanded2 May 1947
Succeeded byHouse of Councillors
  • 251 (1889)
  • 409 (at peak, 1938)
  • 373 (1947)
Last election
1946 House of Peers election
Meeting place
National Diet Building, Tokyo

The House of Peers (貴族院, Kizoku-in) was the upper house of the Imperial Diet as mandated under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (in effect from 11 February 1889 to 3 May 1947).


Emperor Meiji in a formal session of the House of Peers. Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Yōshū Chikanobu, 1890
Emperor Meiji in a formal session of the House of Peers. Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Yōshū Chikanobu, 1890

In 1869, under the new Meiji government, a Japanese peerage was created by an Imperial decree merging the former court nobility (kuge) and former feudal lords (daimyos) into a single new aristocratic class called the kazoku. A second imperial ordinance in 1884 grouped the kazoku into five ranks equivalent to the European aristocrats, prince (or duke), marquis, count, viscount, and baron.[1] Although this grouping idea was taken from the European peerage, the Japanese titles were taken from Chinese and based on the ancient feudal system in China. Itō Hirobumi and the other Meiji leaders deliberately modeled the chamber on the British House of Lords, as a counterweight to the popularly elected House of Representatives (Shūgiin).


The House of Peers in 1910
The House of Peers in 1910

In 1889, the House of Peers Ordinance established the House of Peers and its composition. For the first session of the Imperial Diet (November 1890–March 1891), there were 145 hereditary members and 106 imperial appointees and high taxpayers, for a total of 251 members. In the 1920s, four new peers elected by the Japan Imperial Academy were added, and the number of peers elected by the top taxpayers of each prefecture was increased from 47 to 66 as some prefectures now elected two members. Inversely, the minimum age for hereditary (dukes and marquesses) and mutually elected (counts, viscounts and barons) noble peers was increased to 30, slightly reducing their number. By 1938, membership reached 409 seats.[2] After the addition of seats for the Empire's colonies Chōsen (Japanese colonial name of Korea) and Taiwan (Japanese name of Formosa) during the last stages of WWII, it stood at 418 at the beginning of the 89th Imperial Diet in November 1945,[3] briefly before Douglas MacArthur's "purge" barred many members from public office. In 1947 during its 92nd and final session, the number of members was 373.[citation needed]


After revisions to the Ordinance, notably in 1925, the House of Peers comprised:

Postwar dissolution

After World War II, the United States occupied Japan and undertook widespread structural changes to progress the principles of what it felt were democratization and demilitarization, which included extensive land reform that stripped the nobility of their land and therefore a major source of income.[5][6] A new constitution was also written by the occupants, the current Constitution of Japan, in effect from 3 May 1947, which required the mostly unelected House of Peers be replaced by an elected House of Councillors.[7]

Presidents of the House of Peers

No. Name Portrait Title Term of office Sessions
Took office Left office Time in office
1 Itō Hirobumi
Itō Hirobumi.jpg
Count (hakushaku) 24 October 1890 20 July 1891 269 days 1
2 Hachisuka Mochiaki
Hachisuka Mochiaki.jpg
Marquis (kōshaku) 20 July 1891 3 October 1896 5 years, 75 days 2–9
3 Konoe Atsumaro
Konoe Atsumaro.jpg
Prince (kōshaku) 3 October 1896 4 December 1903 7 years, 62 days 10–18
4 Tokugawa Iesato
Portrait of Prince Tokugawa Iesato as President of the House of Peers.jpg
Prince (kōshaku) 4 December 1903 9 June 1933 29 years, 187 days 19–64
5 Fumimaro Konoe
Fumimaro Konoe.jpg
Prince (kōshaku) 9 June 1933 17 June 1937 4 years, 8 days 65–70
6 Yorinaga Matsudaira
Yorinaga Matsudaira.jpg
Count (hakushaku) 17 June 1937 11 October 1944 7 years, 116 days 71–85
7 Tokugawa Kuniyuki
Tokugawa Kuniyuki.jpg
Prince (kōshaku) 11 October 1944 19 June 1946 1 year, 251 days 86–89
8 Tokugawa Iemasa
Tokugawa Iemasa.JPG
Prince (kōshaku) 19 June 1946 2 May 1947 317 days 90–92

See also


  1. ^ The Twentieth Century. Nineteenth Century and After. 1907.
  2. ^ p. 109, "Government: The Imperial Diet - House of Peers," Japan Year Book 1938-1939, Kenkyusha Press, Foreign Association of Japan, Tokyo
  3. ^ National Diet Library, Reference (レファレンス, an NDL periodical) 2005.5, Hidehisa Ōyama 帝国議会の運営と会議録をめぐって; contains an appended table listing membership by category at the beginning of each Imperial Diet]
  4. ^ "Government: The Imperial Diet – House of Peers", Japan Year Book 1938–1939, Kenkyusha Press, Foreign Association of Japan, Tokyo, p. 109
  5. ^ Mary Jordan (1997-05-21). "THE LAST RETREAT OF JAPAN'S NOBILITY". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. ISSN 0190-8286. OCLC 1330888409.
  6. ^ Jordan, Mary (1997-05-21). "THE LAST RETREAT OF JAPAN'S NOBILITY". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-09-14.
  7. ^ Fahey, Rob (18 July 2019). "Japan Explained: The House of Councilors - Tokyo Review". Retrieved 9 November 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)