Imperial House of Japan
House of Yamato
Current headNaruhito
Cadet branches

The Imperial House (皇室, Kōshitsu), also referred to as the Imperial Family and the House of Yamato, is the imperial family of Japan, consisting of 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. This Japanese monarchy is the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world.[1] The Imperial House recognizes 126 monarchs, beginning with Emperor Jimmu (traditionally dated to 11 February 660 BC), and continuing up to the current emperor, Naruhito. However, scholars have agreed that there is no evidence of Jimmu's existence,[2][3] that the traditional narrative of Japan's founding is mythical, and that Jimmu is a mythical figure.[4] Historical evidence for the first 25 emperors is mythical, but there is sufficient evidence of an unbroken agnatic line since the early 6th century.[5] Historically, verifiable emperors of Japan start from AD 539 with Emperor Kinmei.[2][6][7]

List of current members

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako with some of the other members of the imperial family, 2021
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).

The emperor (天皇, tennō) is the head of the Japanese imperial family.

Article 3 and 4 of the Law for Special Exception of the Imperial House Law concerning Abdication, etc. of Emperor (天皇の退位等に関する皇室典範特例法, Tennō no taii nado ni kansuru Kōshitsu Tenpan Tokureihō) define the Emperor Emeritus (上皇, jōkō) and Empress Emerita (上皇后, jōkōgō).

Article 5 of the Imperial Household Law (皇室典範, Kōshitsu Tenpan) defines the Imperial Family members (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).[8]

In English, shinnō (親王) and ō (王) are both translated as "prince" as well as shinnōhi (親王妃), naishinnō (内親王), ōhi (王妃) and joō (女王) 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.[9]

There are currently 17 members of the Imperial Family:[10]

Family tree

For the full lineage of the Imperial Family, see Family tree of Japanese monarchs.

The Japanese Imperial Family tree as of February 2022

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:[10]

Emperor TaishōEmpress Teimei
Emperor ShōwaEmpress KōjunThe Prince ChichibuThe Princess ChichibuThe Prince TakamatsuThe Princess TakamatsuThe Prince MikasaThe Princess Mikasa
The Emperor EmeritusThe Empress EmeritaThe Prince HitachiThe Princess HitachiFive daughters
2, 3, 4, 5
Prince Tomohito of MikasaPrincess Tomohito of MikasaThe Prince KatsuraThe Prince TakamadoThe Princess TakamadoTwo daughters
1, 2
The EmperorThe EmpressCrown Prince AkishinoCrown Princess AkishinoSayako KurodaPrincess AkikoPrincess YōkoPrincess TsugukoTwo daughters
1, 2
Princess AikoMako KomuroPrincess KakoPrince Hisahito

Living former members

Princess Mako (left) forwent a one-off million-dollar payment given to imperial women upon leaving the Imperial Family

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 the Prince Mikasa, the only daughter of the former Emperor Akihito, the second and third daughter of the Prince Takamado, and most recently, the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino, 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 in October 1947. The living former imperial princesses are:


Emperor Shōwa and members of the Kyū-Miyake (Cadet Royal Families)

Additionally, there are several people of Imperial descent in the Fushimi cadet branch (Shinnōke), which itself consists of a main branch and five extant sub-branches (Ōke). The cadet royal families lost membership in the Imperial Family by the American Occupation Authorities in October 1947, as part of the abolition of collateral imperial houses and the kazoku (hereditary peerage). However, there are still unofficial heads of the living collateral families. These are the living Kyū-Miyake (旧宮家, "former Miyake"):

The Higashifushimi or Komatsu collateral branch became extinct in the male line in 1922, followed by the Nashimoto branch in 1951, Kachō or Kwachō branch in 1970, Yamashina branch in 1987, and Kitashirakawa branch in 2018. The main Fushimi branch will become extinct upon the death of the current head, Fushimi Hiroaki (b. 1932), as he has no male offspring to succeed him; although he does not have any sons, his adoptive grandnephew has male issue who can be expected to become the head of the Fushimi-no-miya.

Finances of the Imperial Family


The Japanese monarchy was considered to be among the wealthiest in the world until the end of World War II.[20] Before 1911, there was no distinction between the Imperial Crown Estates and the Emperor's personal properties. When the Imperial Property Law was enacted in 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, such as Empress Dowager, the Empress, Crown Prince and Crown Princess, the Imperial Grandson and the consort of the Imperial Grandson, in addition to properties held for Imperial Family members who were minors, were exempted from taxation.[21]

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.[21] 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 $19.9 billion as of 2017.[note 1][21][22] Emperor Shōwa's personal fortune was an additional hundreds of millions of yen (estimated over $6 billion as of 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.[21]

After World War II, all of the 11 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 of the Imperial Household Ministry were slashed from roughly 6000 to about 1000. The Imperial Estates and the Emperor's personal fortune (then estimated at $17.15 million in 1946, or roughly $270.70 million as of 2023) 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. When Emperor Shōwa died, he left a personal fortune of £11 million in 1989.[23] In 2017, Emperor Akihito had an estimated net worth of US$40 million.[24]


Panorama of the Tokyo Imperial Palace

Currently the primary Imperial properties are the Tokyo Imperial Palace and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The estimated landholdings are 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.[23][25] The Imperial Household Agency administers the Shosoin Imperial Repository in Nara.[26] The Imperial properties are all owned by the State.[27]


The Emperor can spend £150 million of public money annually. The imperial palaces are all owned and paid for by the State.[27]

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.[27]


The Japanese Imperial Family has a staff of more than 1,000 people (47 servants per royal). This includes a 24-piece traditional orchestra (gagaku) with 1,000 year-old instruments such as the koto and the shō, 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.[27]

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 also 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.[27]


Imperial official vehicle, Toyota Century Royal "Empress 1".

The Imperial Palace has a £2 million-a-year clinic with 42 staff and 8 medical departments. 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).[27]

The Imperial properties includes a 622 acres (252 ha) farm which supplies produce and meat for the Imperial Family. The farm costs were £3 million per year as of 2003; the emperor and his family had a monthly water bill of approximately £50,000, also as of 2003.

The Imperial Guard is a special over 900 strong police force that provides personal protection for the Emperor and other members of the Imperial Family including their residences for £48 million per year.[25]

The Imperial Household owns and operates a fleet of Toyota Century motor vehicles, designated "Empresses", for exclusive use of the Imperial Household. In 2006, the Imperial Household Agency took delivery of the first of four bespoke Toyota Century Royals. The first of these specially prepared vehicles, Empress 1, serve as the official state car of the Emperor.[28] Two Century Royals, Empress 3 and Empress 5, were assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for special use by visiting dignitaries and foreign heads of state. The last, Empress 2, was built in 2008 as a hearse exclusively for imperial funerals.[29][30] Despite the imperial family's extravagant expenditures, 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 since they regard it as an honour to host the Imperial Family.[27]

Aside from the inner court (the Emperor and Empress, and 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 running businesses. For example, Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, his wife and two daughters receive £310,000 per year, but they are not well known by the Japanese public and have few imperial duties.[27]

The real annual cost was estimated to be $325 million per year, also as of 2003.[27]

Involvement in war

World War II

Emperor Shōwa as head of the Imperial General Headquarters on 29 April 1943

Members of the imperial family, including Naruhiko, Prince Higashikuni, Yasuhito, Prince Chichibu, Takahito, Prince Mikasa and Tsuneyoshi, Prince Takeda, were involved in human experimentation programs in various ways, which included authorizing, funding, supplying, and inspecting biomedical facilities.[31][32]

Since 1978, the emperor of Japan has never visited Yasukuni Shrine due to Emperor Shōwa's displeasure over the enshrinement of convicted Class-A war criminals.[33]


A 1997 survey by Asahi Shimbun showed that 82% of Japanese supported the continuation of the monarchy.[34] Polls after showed 13 of respondents were "indifferent" towards it.[34] The imperial system is considered a symbol of the country, it provides a sense of linkage, purpose, spiritual core, diplomatic role as ambassador and a source of tradition and stability.[34] A small percentage argue that the imperial system is out of date, not in synchrony with the contemporary times.[34]

Imperial standards currently in use

See also: List of Japanese flags and Imperial Seal of Japan

See also

Related terms


  1. ^ (¥650 million was worth $195 million in 1935 and $19.9 billion as of 2017 Archived 2018-10-22 at the Wayback Machine)


  1. ^ "5 Things to know about Japan's emperor and imperial family". 8 August 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b Hoye, Timothy (1999). Japanese Politics: Fixed and Floating Worlds. p. 78.
  3. ^ Ruoff, Kenneth J. (2021-02-01). Japan's Imperial House in the Postwar Era, 1945–2019. BRILL. p. 171. ISBN 978-1-68417-616-8.
  4. ^ Shillony, Ben-Ami (2008). The Emperors of Modern Japan. BRILL. p. 15. ISBN 978-90-04-16822-0.
  5. ^ Goldman, Russell (8 August 2016). "5 Things to Know About Japan's Emperor and Imperial Family". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 26, 2022.
  6. ^ "5 things to know as Japan's Emperor Akihito steps down". 29 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Emperor of Japan".
  8. ^ "The Imperial House Law". Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  9. ^ Saitō Katsuhisa (June 20, 2022). "Royal Reduction: The Postwar Downsizing of Japan's Imperial Family". Archived from the original on June 20, 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Genealogy of the Imperial Family". Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
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  12. ^ a b "Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita". The Imperial Household Agency. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  13. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Crown Prince and Crown Princess Akishino and their family". Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  14. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Hitachi". Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa and their family". Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado and her family". Archived from the original on 29 November 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  17. ^ a b "Personal Histories of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa and their family". Archived from the original on 15 January 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  18. ^ "Personal Histories of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress". Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  19. ^ "Personal Histories of Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado and her family". Archived from the original on 19 April 2017. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  20. ^ "Legacy of Hirohito". The Times. 3 May 1989.
  21. ^ a b c d "Japan – The Imperial Court". The Japan-Manchoukuo Year Book. The Japan-Manchoukuo Year Book Co. 1938. pp. 50–51.
  22. ^ pp. 332–333, "Exchange and Interest Rates", Japan Year Book 1938–1939, Kenkyusha Press, Foreign Association of Japan, Tokyo
  23. ^ a b Reed, Christopher (5 October 1971). "Few personal possessions for reigning monarch". The Times.
  24. ^ "Akihito Net Worth 2017: How Rich Is Japanese Emperor As Parliament Passed Historic Law For His Abdication". The International Business Times. June 9, 2017. Archived from the original on May 28, 2018. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
  25. ^ a b "Imperial Guard Home page". Archived from the original on 2018-10-08. Retrieved 2018-10-28.
  26. ^ Kyoto National Museum | Her Majesty the Empress and the Sericulture of the Koishimaru Silkworm Archived 2008-08-15 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ "Goryō new vehicles – the Imperial Household Management Division" (in Japanese). 2006-07-12. Archived from the original on 2009-12-08. Retrieved 2009-11-14.
  29. ^ トヨタ センチュリー ロイヤル 寝台車 [Toyota Century Royal hearse]. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2017-10-15 – via YouTube.
  30. ^ Iwasaki, Koyata (2016-02-22). "Toyota Century Royal hearse". Archived from the original on 2017-10-16. Retrieved 2017-10-15 – via Wheelsage.
  31. ^ Harris, Sheldon (1995). Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932–45, and the American Cover-Up. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415932141.
  32. ^ Large, Stephen (1995). Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan, A Political Biography. Routledge. pp. 67–68, 134, 117–119, 144–145. ISBN 9781-138009110.
  33. ^ "Explainer: Why Yasukuni shrine is a controversial symbol of Japan's war legacy". Reuters. 14 August 2021.
  34. ^ a b c d William D. Hoover (2011). Historical Dictionary of Postwar Japan (second ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 147. ISBN 978-1538111550.
Imperial HouseImperial House of Japan First ruling house Ruling House of Japan 539 AD–present Incumbent