Emperor of Japan

Emperor of Japan

Overview
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family
Imperial House of Japan
The , also referred to as the Imperial Family or 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...

 with functions as head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

. He is also the highest authority of the Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 religion. In his dual role as head of a religion and head of state the Emperor resembles the British monarch, who is "supreme governor" of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

.

The Emperor is called the Tennō (天皇) in Japanese, literally meaning "heavenly sovereign".
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Timeline

1308   The reign of Emperor Hanazono, emperor of Japan, begins.

1586   Emperor Go-Yozei becomes Emperor of Japan.

1867   The 15th and the last military Shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate resigns in Japan, returning his power to the Emperor of Japan and thence to the re-established civil government of Japan

1869   The Japanese daimyō begin returning their land holdings to the emperor as part of the Meiji Restoration reforms. (Traditional Japanese Date: June 17, 1869).

1945   Japan accepts the Allied terms of surrender in World War II and the Emperor records the Imperial Rescript on Surrender (August 15 in Japan standard time).

1959   Akihito, future Emperor of Japan, weds Michiko.

1992   Emperor Akihito becomes the first Emperor of Japan to stand on Chinese soil.

 
Encyclopedia
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family
Imperial House of Japan
The , also referred to as the Imperial Family or 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...

 with functions as head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

. He is also the highest authority of the Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 religion. In his dual role as head of a religion and head of state the Emperor resembles the British monarch, who is "supreme governor" of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

.

The Emperor is called the Tennō (天皇) in Japanese, literally meaning "heavenly sovereign". He is also referred to in English as the Mikado (帝) of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

.

The Imperial House of Japan is the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy
Hereditary monarchy
A hereditary monarchy is the most common type of monarchy and is the form that is used by almost all of the world's existing monarchies.Under a hereditary monarchy, all the monarchs come from the same family, and the crown is passed down from one member to another member of the family...

 in the world. In Nihon Shoki
Nihon Shoki
The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

, a book of Japanese history finished in the eighth century, it is said that the Empire of Japan was founded in 660 BC by Emperor Jimmu
Emperor Jimmu
was the first Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. He is also known as Kamuyamato Iwarebiko and personally as Wakamikenu no Mikoto or Sano no Mikoto....

. The current emperor is His Imperial Majesty the Emperor Akihito
Akihito
is the current , the 125th emperor of his line according to Japan's traditional order of succession. He acceded to the throne in 1989.-Name:In Japan, the emperor is never referred to by his given name, but rather is referred to as "His Imperial Majesty the Emperor" which may be shortened to . In...

, who has been on the Chrysanthemum Throne
Chrysanthemum Throne
The is the English term used to identify the throne of the Emperor of Japan. The term can refer to very specific seating, such as the takamikura throne in the Shishin-den at Kyoto Imperial Palace....

 since his father the Showa Emperor
Hirohito
, posthumously in Japan officially called Emperor Shōwa or , was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death in 1989. Although better known outside of Japan by his personal name Hirohito, in Japan he is now referred to...

 (Hirohito) died in 1989.

The role of the Emperor of Japan has historically alternated between a largely ceremonial and symbolic role and that of an actual imperial ruler. Since the establishment of the first shogunate in 1192, the emperors of Japan have rarely taken on a role as supreme battlefield commander, unlike many Western monarchs. Japanese emperors have nearly always been controlled by external political forces, to varying degrees. In fact, from 1192 to 1867, the shogun
Shogun
A was one of the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents , were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor...

s, or their shikken
Shikken
The was the regent for the shogun in the Kamakura shogunate in Japan. The post was monopolized by the Hōjō clan, and this system only existed once in Japanese history, between 1203 and 1333...

regents in Kamakura
Kamakura, Kanagawa
is a city located in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, about south-south-west of Tokyo. It used to be also called .Although Kamakura proper is today rather small, it is often described in history books as a former de facto capital of Japan as the seat of the Shogunate and of the Regency during the...

 (1203–1333), were the de facto rulers of Japan, although they were nominally appointed by the emperor.

Since the mid-nineteenth century, the Imperial Palace has been called "Kyūjō" (宮城), then Kōkyo
Kokyo
is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park-like area located in the Chiyoda area of Tokyo close to Tokyo Station and contains several buildings including the main palace , the emperor left Kyoto Imperial Palace for Tokyo...

(皇居), and located on the former site of Edo Castle
Edo Castle
, also known as , is a flatland castle that was built in 1457 by Ōta Dōkan. It is located in Chiyoda in Tokyo, then known as Edo, Toshima District, Musashi Province. Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa shogunate here. It was the residence of the shogun and location of the shogunate, and also...

 in the heart of Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

. Earlier emperors resided in Kyoto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

 for nearly eleven centuries.

The Emperor's Birthday
The Emperor's Birthday
is a national holiday in the Japanese calendar. It is currently celebrated on 23 December. The date is determined by the present Emperor's birthdate. Emperor Akihito was born on this date in 1933....

 (currently celebrated on 23 December) is a national holiday.

Role


Unlike most constitutional monarchies, the Emperor is not even the nominal chief executive. Rather, the Constitution of Japan
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

 explicitly states that the Emperor only "shall perform ... acts in matters of state as are provided for in the Constitution and he shall not have powers related to government" (article 4) and that the "advice and approval of the Cabinet shall be required for all acts of the Emperor in matters of state" (article 3, which also states that these duties can be delegated by the Emperor). Article 65 explicitly vests executive power in the Cabinet
Cabinet of Japan
The of Japan is the executive branch of the government of Japan. It consists of the Prime Minister and up to fourteen other members, called Ministers of State. The Prime Minister is designated by the Diet, and the remaining ministers are appointed and dismissed by the Prime Minister...

, of which the Prime Minister is the leader.

The duties the Emperor performs are closely regulated by the constitution. For example, while formally the Emperor's duties include appointing the Prime Minister to office, article 6 of the constitution requires him to appoint the candidate "as designated by the Diet" (in practice, the candidate designated by the House of Representatives
House of Representatives of Japan
The is the lower house of the Diet of Japan. The House of Councillors of Japan is the upper house.The House of Representatives has 480 members, elected for a four-year term. Of these, 180 members are elected from 11 multi-member constituencies by a party-list system of proportional representation,...

) without the right to decline appointment. This is in marked contrast to his status under the Meiji Constitution
Meiji Constitution
The ', known informally as the ', was the organic law of the Japanese empire, in force from November 29, 1890 until May 2, 1947.-Outline:...

, which recognized the emperor as the embodiment of all sovereign power of the realm.

The other detailed regulation of the Emperor's duties "in matters of state" (not government) is laid down in article 7 of the constitution, where it is stated that the "Emperor with the advice and approval of the Cabinet, shall perform the following acts in matters of state on behalf of the people:
  1. Promulgation of amendments of the constitution, laws, cabinet orders and treaties.
  2. Convocation of the Diet.
  3. Dissolution of the House of Representatives.
  4. Proclamation of general election of members of the Diet.
  5. Attestation of the appointment and dismissal of Ministers of State and other officials as provided for by law, and of full powers and credentials of Ambassadors and Ministers.
  6. Attestation of general and special amnesty, commutation of punishment, reprieve, and restoration of rights.
  7. Awarding of honors.
  8. Attestation of instruments of ratification and other diplomatic documents as provided for by law.
  9. Receiving foreign ambassadors and ministers.
  10. Performance of ceremonial functions."

History


Although the emperor has been a symbol of continuity with the past, the degree of power exercised by the emperor of Japan has varied considerably throughout Japanese history. In the early 7th century the emperor began to be called .

Origin



The earliest emperor recorded in Kojiki
Kojiki
is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

 and Nihon Shoki
Nihon Shoki
The , sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan, is the second oldest book of classical Japanese history. It is more elaborate and detailed than the Kojiki, the oldest, and has proven to be an important tool for historians and archaeologists as it includes the most complete extant historical...

 is Emperor Jimmu
Emperor Jimmu
was the first Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. He is also known as Kamuyamato Iwarebiko and personally as Wakamikenu no Mikoto or Sano no Mikoto....

. The key to knowing the origin of the Japanese imperial line may lie within the ancient imperial tombs known as kofun
Kofun
Kofun are megalithic tombs or tumuli in Japan, constructed between the early 3rd century and early 7th century. They gave their name to the Kofun period . Many of the Kofun have a distinctive keyhole-shaped mound , unique to ancient Japan...

. However, since the Meiji period
Meiji period
The , also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which extended from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.- Meiji Restoration and the emperor :...

, the Imperial Household Agency
Imperial Household Agency
The is a government agency of Japan in charge of the state matters concerning Japan's imperial family and also keeping the Privy Seal and the State Seal...

 has refused to open the kofun to the public or to archaeologists, citing their desire not to disturb the spirits of the past emperors as justification for their refusal. But in December 2006, the Imperial Household Agency reversed its position and decided to allow researchers to enter some of the kofun with no restrictions.

Factional control


There have been six non-imperial families
Dynasty
A dynasty is a sequence of rulers considered members of the same family. Historians traditionally consider many sovereign states' history within a framework of successive dynasties, e.g., China, Ancient Egypt and the Persian Empire...

 who have controlled Japanese emperors: the Soga
Soga clan
The was one of the most powerful clans in Yamato Japan and played a major role in the spread of Buddhism. For many generations, in the 5th and 7th centuries, the Soga monopolized the position of Great Royal Chieftain and was the first of many families to dominate the Imperial House of Japan by...

 (530s–645), the Fujiwara (850s–1070), the Taira
Taira clan
The was a major Japanese clan of samurai in historical Japan.In reference to Japanese history, along with Minamoto, Taira was a hereditary clan name bestowed by the emperors of the Heian Period to certain ex-members of the imperial family when they became subjects...

 (for a relatively short period), the Minamoto
Minamoto clan
was one of the surnames bestowed by the Emperors of Japan upon members of the imperial family who were demoted into the ranks of the nobility. The practice was most prevalent during the Heian Period , although its last occurrence was during the Sengoku Era. The Taira were another such offshoot of...

 (and Kamakura bakufu) (1192–1333), the Ashikaga
Ashikaga shogunate
The , also known as the , was a Japanese feudal military regime, ruled by the shoguns of the Ashikaga clan.This period is also known as the Muromachi period and gets its name from Muromachi Street of Kyoto where the third shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu established his residence...

 (1336–1565) and the Tokugawa
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

 (1603–1867). However, every shogun from the Minamoto, Ashikaga and Tokugawa families had to be officially recognized by the emperors, who were still the source of sovereignty, although they could not exercise their powers independently from the Shogunate.

Disputes


The growth of the samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

 class from the 10th century gradually weakened the power of the imperial family over the nation, leading to a time of instability. Emperors have been known to come into conflict with the reigning shogun from time to time; a notable example is the Hōgen Rebellion
Hogen Rebellion
The was a short civil war fought in order to resolve a dispute about Japanese Imperial succession. The dispute was also about the degree of control exercised by the Fujiwara clan who had become hereditary Imperial regents during the Heian period....

 of 1156, in which former Emperor Sutoku
Emperor Sutoku
was the 75th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Sutoku's reign spanned the years from 1123 through 1142.-Genealogy:Before his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name was Akihito ....

 attempted to seize power from the then current Emperor Go-Shirakawa
Emperor Go-Shirakawa
Emperor Go-Shirakawa was the 77th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession...

, both of whom were supported by different clans of samurai. Other instances, such as Emperor Go-Toba
Emperor Go-Toba
was the 82nd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. His reign spanned the years from 1183 through 1198....

's 1221 rebellion
Jokyu War
', also known as the Jōkyū Disturbance or the Jōkyū Rebellion, was fought in Japan between the forces of Retired Emperor Go-Toba and those of the Hōjō clan, regents of the Kamakura shogunate, whom the retired emperor was trying to overthrow....

 against the Kamakura shogunate
Kamakura shogunate
The Kamakura shogunate was a military dictatorship in Japan headed by the shoguns from 1185 to 1333. It was based in Kamakura. The Kamakura period draws its name from the capital of the shogunate...

 and the 1336 Kemmu Restoration
Kemmu restoration
The is the name given to both the three year period of Japanese history between the Kamakura period and the Muromachi period, and the political events that took place in it...

 under Emperor Go-Daigo
Emperor Go-Daigo
Emperor Go-Daigo was the 96th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession....

, show the power struggle between the Imperial House and the military governments of Japan.

Territorial matters


Up to recent centuries, Japan's territory did not include several remote regions of its modern-day territory. The name Nippon came into use only many centuries after the start of the current imperial line. Centralized government only began to appear shortly before and during the time of Prince Shōtoku
Prince Shotoku
, also known as or , was a semi-legendary regent and a politician of the Asuka period in Japan who served under Empress Suiko. He was a son of Emperor Yōmei and his younger half-sister Princess Anahobe no Hashihito. His parents were relatives of the ruling Soga clan, and was involved in the defeat...

. The emperor was more like a revered embodiment of divine harmony rather than the head of an actual governing administration. In Japan it has always been easy for ambitious lords to hold actual power, as such positions have not been inherently contradictory to the emperor's position. Parliamentary government today continues a similar coexistence with the emperor as have various shoguns, regents, warlords, guardians, etc.

Historically the titles of Tennō in Japanese have never included territorial designations as is the case with many European monarchs. The position of emperor is a territory-independent phenomenon—the emperor is the emperor, even if he has followers only in one province (as was the case sometimes with the southern and northern courts).

Shoguns


From 1192 to 1867, sovereignty of the state was exercised by the shogun
Shogun
A was one of the hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents , were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor...

s, or their shikken
Shikken
The was the regent for the shogun in the Kamakura shogunate in Japan. The post was monopolized by the Hōjō clan, and this system only existed once in Japanese history, between 1203 and 1333...

regents (1203–1333), whose authority was conferred by Imperial warrant. When Portuguese
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 explorers first came into contact with the Japanese (see Nanban period), they described Japanese conditions in analogy, likening the Emperor, with great symbolic authority but little political power, to the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

, and the Shogun to secular European rulers, e.g. the Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

. In keeping with the analogy, they even used the term "Emperor" in reference to the shogun/regent, e.g. in the case of Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
was a daimyo warrior, general and politician of the Sengoku period. He unified the political factions of Japan. He succeeded his former liege lord, Oda Nobunaga, and brought an end to the Sengoku period. The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period, named after Hideyoshi's castle...

, who missionaries called "Emperor Taicosama" (from Taiko
Sessho and Kampaku
In Japan, was a title given to a regent who was named to assist either a child emperor before his coming of age, or an empress. The was theoretically a sort of chief advisor for the emperor, but was the title of both first secretary and regent who assists an adult emperor. During the Heian era,...

 and the honorific sama
Japanese titles
The Japanese language uses a broad array of honorific suffixes for addressing or referring to people, for example -san, as in Daniel-san. These honorifics are gender-neutral , though some are more used for men or women and can be attached to first names as well as...

).

Meiji restoration


After the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 Commodore Matthew C. Perry's Black Ships
Black Ships
The Black Ships was the name given to Western vessels arriving in Japan in the 16th and 19th centuries.In 1543 Portuguese initiated the first contacts, establishing a trade route linking Goa to Nagasaki...

 forcibly opened Japan to foreign trade and the shogunate proved incapable of hindering the "barbarian" interlopers, the Emperor Kōmei
Emperor Komei
was the 121st emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. Kōmei's reign spanned the years from 1846 through 1867.-Genealogy:Before Kōmei's accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name was ;, his title was ....

 began to assert himself politically. By the early 1860s, the relationship between the imperial court and the Shogunate was changing radically. Disaffected domains and ronin began to rally to the call of sonnō jōi
Sonno joi
is a Japanese political philosophy and a social movement derived from Neo-Confucianism; it became a political slogan in the 1850s and 1860s in the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa bakufu, during the Bakumatsu period.-Origin:...

, or "respect the emperor, expel the barbarians." The domains of Satsuma and Chōshū, historic enemies of the Tokugawa, used this turmoil to unite their forces and won an important military victory outside of Kyoto against Tokugawa forces.

In 1868, imperial "restoration" was declared, and the Shogunate was dissolved. A new constitution described the Emperor as "the head of the Empire, combining in Himself the rights of sovereignty", whose rights included to sanction and promulgate laws, to execute them and to exercise "supreme command of the Army and the Navy". The liaison conference created in 1893 also made the Emperor the leader of the Imperial General Headquarters
Imperial General Headquarters
The as part of the Supreme War Council was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime...

.

Current constitution


The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights. Under its terms the Emperor of Japan is "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people" and exercises a purely ceremonial role without the possession of sovereignty.

The constitution, also known as the or the , was drawn up under the Allied occupation that followed World War II and was intended to replace Japan's previous militaristic and absolute monarchy system with a form of liberal democracy. Currently, it is a rigid document and no subsequent amendment has been made to it since its adoption.

Addressing and naming


There are two Japanese words equivalent to the English word "emperor": tennō (天皇, lit. "heavenly sovereign"), which is used exclusively to refer to an emperor of Japan, and kōtei (皇帝, the title used for Chinese emperors), which is used primarily to describe non-Japanese emperors. Sumeramikoto (lit. "the Imperial person") was also used in Old Japanese
Old Japanese language
is the oldest attested stage of the Japanese language.This stage in the development of Japanese is still actively studied and debated, and key Old Japanese texts, such as the Man'yōshū, remain obscure in places.-Dating:...

. The term tennō was used by the emperors up until the Middle Ages; then, following a period of disuse, it was used again from the 19th century. In English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, the term mikado (御門 or 帝 or みかど), literally meaning "the honorable gate" (i.e. the gate of the imperial place, which indicates the person who lives and possesses the place), was once used (as in The Mikado
The Mikado
The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations...

, a 19th century operetta
Operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

), but this term is now obsolete. (Compare Sublime Porte, an old term for the Ottoman government.)

Traditionally, the Japanese considered it disrespectful to call any person by his given name
Given name
A given name, in Western contexts often referred to as a first name, is a personal name that specifies and differentiates between members of a group of individuals, especially in a family, all of whose members usually share the same family name...

, and more so for a person of noble rank. This convention is more relaxed in modern age and now it is acceptable among friends to use the given name, but use of the family name is still common. In the case of the imperial family, it is still considered inappropriate to use the given name. Since Emperor Meiji, it has been customary to have one era per emperor and to rename each emperor after his death using the name of the era over which he presided, plus the word Tennō. Prior to Emperor Meiji
Emperor Meiji
The or was the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death...

, the names of the eras were changed more frequently, and the posthumous names of the emperors were chosen in a different manner.
Outside of Japan, beginning with Emperor Shōwa, the emperors are often referred to by their given names, both whilst alive and posthumously. For example, the previous emperor is usually called Hirohito
Hirohito
, posthumously in Japan officially called Emperor Shōwa or , was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death in 1989. Although better known outside of Japan by his personal name Hirohito, in Japan he is now referred to...

 in English, although he was never referred to as Hirohito in Japan, and was renamed Shōwa Tennō after his death, which is the only name that Japanese speakers currently use when referring to him.

The current emperor on the throne is typically referred to by the title Tennō Heika (天皇陛下, literally "His Majesty the heavenly sovereign") or Kinjō Heika (今上陛下, literally "his current majesty") or simply Tennō when speaking Japanese. Other terms used to refer to the emperor in Japanese include Heika and Okami, but these are much less typical than Tennō Heika or Kinjō Heika in ordinary conversation. The current Emperor will be renamed Heisei Tennō (平成天皇) after his death and will then be referred to exclusively by that name in Japanese. Non-Japanese speakers typically refer to him now as Akihito, or "Emperor Akihito", and will likely continue to do so after his death.

Origin of the title


The ruler of Japan was known as either 大和大王/大君 (Yamato-ōkimi, Grand King of Yamato
Yamato Province
was a province of Japan, located in Kinai, corresponding to present-day Nara Prefecture in Honshū. It was also called . At first, the name was written with one different character , and for about ten years after 737, this was revised to use more desirable characters . The final revision was made in...

), 倭王/倭国王 (Wa-ō/Wakoku-ō, King of Wa, used externally), or 治天下大王 (ame-no-shita shiroshimesu ōkimi or sumera no mikoto, Grand King who rules all under heaven, used internally) in Japanese and Chinese sources prior to the 7th century. The oldest documented use of the word "tennō" is on a wooden slat, or mokkan, that was unearthed in Asuka-mura, Nara Prefecture
Asuka, Nara
is a village located in Takaichi District, Nara, Japan.As of September 1, 2007, the village has an estimated population of 6,146 and a density of 255.23 persons per km². The total area is 24.08 km².Asuka is the land where ancient palaces were located...

 in 1998 and dated back to the reign of Emperor Temmu
Emperor Temmu
was the 40th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Temmu's reign lasted from 672 until his death in 686.-Traditional narrative:...

 and Empress Jitō
Empress Jito
was the 41st emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Jitō's reign spanned the years from 686 through 697.In the history of Japan, Jitō was the third of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant. The two female monarchs before Jitō were Suiko and Kōgyoku/Saimei...

.

Marriage traditions


Throughout history, Japanese emperors and noblemen appointed the position of chief wife, rather than just keeping a harem
Harem
Harem refers to the sphere of women in what is usually a polygynous household and their enclosed quarters which are forbidden to men...

 or an assortment of female attendants.

The Japanese imperial dynasty consistently practiced official polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

, a practice that only ended in the Taishō period
Taisho period
The , or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912 to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen to the Diet...

 (1912–1926). Besides the empress, the emperor could take, and nearly always took, several secondary consorts ("concubines") of various hierarchical degrees. Concubines were allowed also to other dynasts (shinno, o). After a decision decreed by Emperor Ichijō
Emperor Ichijo
was the 66th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Ichijō's reign spanned the years from 986 to 1011.-Traditional narrative:Before he ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name was Kanehito-shinnō....

, some emperors even had two empresses simultaneously (kōgō and chugu are the two separate titles for that situation). With the help of all this polygamy, the imperial clan thus was capable of producing more offspring. (Sons by secondary consorts were usually recognized as imperial princes, too, and could be recognized as heir to the throne if the empress did not give birth to an heir.)

Of the eight female tennō (reigning empress) of Japan, none married or gave birth after ascending the throne. Some of them, being widows, had produced children prior to their reigns.

In the succession, children of the empress were preferred over sons of secondary consorts. Thus it was significant which quarters had preferential opportunities in providing chief wives to imperial princes, i.e. supplying future empresses.

Apparently the oldest tradition of official marriages within the imperial dynasty were marriages between dynasty members, even half-siblings or uncle and niece. Such marriages were deemed to preserve better the imperial blood or were aimed at producing children symbolic of a reconciliation between two branches of the imperial dynasty. Daughters of others than imperials remained concubines, until Emperor Shōmu
Emperor Shomu
was the 45th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Shōmu's reign spanned the years 724 through 723.-Traditional narrative:...

—in what was specifically reported as the first elevation of its kind—elevated his Fujiwara consort Empress Kōmyō
Empress Komyo
was the Nara period consort of Japanese Emperor Shōmu .A member of the Fujiwara clan, her father was Fujiwara no Fuhito and her mother was Agata Inukai no Michiyo . During her life she was also known as Asukabehime 安宿媛, Kōmyōshi 光明子, and Tōsanjō 藤三娘...

 to chief wife.

Japanese monarchs have been, as much as others elsewhere, dependent on making alliances with powerful chiefs and other monarchs. Many such alliances were sealed by marriages. The specific feature in Japan has been the fact that these marriages have been soon incorporated as elements of tradition which controlled the marriages of later generations, though the original practical alliance had lost its real meaning. A repeated pattern has been an imperial son-in-law under the influence of his powerful non-imperial father-in-law.

Beginning from the 7th and 8th centuries, emperors primarily took women of the Fujiwara clan as their highest wives—the most probable mothers of future monarchs. This was cloaked as a tradition of marriage between heirs of two kami
Kami
is the Japanese word for the spirits, natural forces, or essence in the Shinto faith. Although the word is sometimes translated as "god" or "deity", some Shinto scholars argue that such a translation can cause a misunderstanding of the term...

s, Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 gods: descendants of Amaterasu
Amaterasu
, or is apart of the Japanese myth cycle and also a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is the goddess of the sun, but also of the universe. the name Amaterasu derived from Amateru meaning "shining in heaven." The meaning of her whole name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, is "the great August kami who...

 with descendants of the family kami of the Fujiwara. (Originally, the Fujiwara were descended from relatively minor nobility, thus their kami is an unremarkable one in the Japanese myth world.) To produce imperial children, heirs of the nation, with two-side descent from the two kamis, was regarded as desirable—or at least it suited powerful Fujiwara lords, who thus received preference in the imperial marriage market. The reality behind such marriages was an alliance between an imperial prince and a Fujiwara lord, his father-in-law or grandfather, the latter with his resources supporting the prince to the throne and most often controlling the government. These arrangements created the tradition of regents (Sessho and Kampaku
Sessho and Kampaku
In Japan, was a title given to a regent who was named to assist either a child emperor before his coming of age, or an empress. The was theoretically a sort of chief advisor for the emperor, but was the title of both first secretary and regent who assists an adult emperor. During the Heian era,...

), with these positions allowed to be held only by a Fujiwara sekke lord.

Earlier, the emperors had married women from families of the government-holding Soga
Soga clan
The was one of the most powerful clans in Yamato Japan and played a major role in the spread of Buddhism. For many generations, in the 5th and 7th centuries, the Soga monopolized the position of Great Royal Chieftain and was the first of many families to dominate the Imperial House of Japan by...

 lords, and women of the imperial clan itself, i.e. various-degree cousins and often even their own sisters (half-sisters). Several imperials of the 5th and 6th centuries such as Prince Shōtoku
Prince Shotoku
, also known as or , was a semi-legendary regent and a politician of the Asuka period in Japan who served under Empress Suiko. He was a son of Emperor Yōmei and his younger half-sister Princess Anahobe no Hashihito. His parents were relatives of the ruling Soga clan, and was involved in the defeat...

 were children of a couple of half-siblings. These marriages often were alliance or succession devices: the Soga lord ensured the domination of a prince, to be put as puppet to the throne; or a prince ensured the combination of two imperial descents, to strengthen his own and his children's claim to the throne. Marriages were also a means to seal a reconciliation between two imperial branches.

After a couple of centuries, emperors could no longer take anyone from outside such families as primary wife, no matter what the expediency of such a marriage and power or wealth brought by such might have been. Only very rarely was a prince without a mother of descent from such families allowed to ascend the throne. The earlier necessity and expediency had mutated into a strict tradition that did not allow for current expediency or necessity, but only dictated that daughters of a restricted circle of families were eligible brides, because they had produced eligible brides for centuries. Tradition had become more forceful than law.

Fujiwara women were often Empresses, and concubines came from less exalted noble families. In the last thousand years, sons of an imperial male and a Fujiwara woman have been preferred in the succession.

The five Fujiwara families, Ichijo, Kujo, Nijo, Konoe and Takatsukasa, were the primary source of imperial brides from the 8th century to the 19th century, even more often than daughters of the imperial clan itself. Fujiwara daughters were thus the usual empresses and mothers of emperors.

The acceptable source of imperial wives, brides for the emperor and crown prince, were even legislated into the Meiji
Meiji period
The , also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which extended from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.- Meiji Restoration and the emperor :...

-era imperial house laws (1889), which stipulated that daughters of Sekke (the five main branches of the higher Fujiwara) and daughters of the imperial clan itself were primarily acceptable brides.

Since that law was repealed in the aftermath of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the present Emperor Akihito became the first crown prince for over a thousand years to have an empress outside the previously eligible circle.

Succession



The Japanese imperial dynasty bases its position in the expression that it has "reigned since time immemorial
Time immemorial
Time immemorial is a phrase meaning time extending beyond the reach of memory, record, or tradition, indefinitely ancient, "ancient beyond memory or record"...

" (万世一系 bansei ikkei). It is true that its origins are buried in the mists of time: there are no records of any emperor who was not said to have been a descendant of other, yet earlier emperors. There is suspicion that Emperor Keitai
Emperor Keitai
, also known as Keitai-okimi, was the 26th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.No firm dates can be assigned to this emperor's life or reign, but he is conventionally considered to have reigned from 507–531....

 (c. 500 AD) may have been an unrelated outsider, though the sources state that he was a male-line descendant of Emperor Ōjin
Emperor Ojin
, also known as Homutawake or , was the 15th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.No firm dates can be assigned to this emperor's life or reign, but he is conventionally considered to have reigned from 270 to 310....

. However, his descendants, including his successors, were according to records descended from at least one and probably several imperial princesses of the older lineage. The tradition built by those legends has chosen to recognize just the putative male ancestry as valid for legitimizing his succession, not giving any weight to ties through the said princesses.
Millennia ago, the Japanese imperial family developed its own peculiar system of hereditary succession. It has been non-primogenitural, more or less agnatic, based mostly on rotation. Today, Japan uses strict agnatic primogeniture, which was adopted from Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, by which Japan was greatly influenced in the 1870s.

The controlling principles and their interaction were apparently very complex and sophisticated, leading to even idiosyncratic outcomes. Some chief principles apparent in the succession have been:
  • Women were allowed to succeed (but there existed no known children of theirs whose father did not also happen to be an agnate of the imperial house, thus there is neither a precedent that a child of an imperial woman with a non-imperial man could inherit, nor a precedent forbidding it for children of empresses). However, female accession was clearly much more rare than male.
  • Adoption was possible and a much used way to increase the number of succession-entitled heirs (however, the adopted child had to be a child of another member agnate of the imperial house).
  • Abdication was used very often, and in fact occurred more often than death on the throne. In those days, the emperor's chief task was priestly (or godly), containing so many repetitive rituals that it was deemed that after a service of around ten years, the incumbent deserved pampered retirement as an honored former emperor.
  • Primogeniture
    Primogeniture
    Primogeniture is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn to inherit the entire estate, to the exclusion of younger siblings . Historically, the term implied male primogeniture, to the exclusion of females...

     was not used—rather, in the early days, the imperial house practised something resembling a system of rotation. Very often a brother (or sister) followed the elder sibling even in the case of the predecessor leaving children. The "turn" of the next generation came more often after several individuals of the senior generation. Rotation went often between two or more of the branches of the imperial house, thus more or less distant cousins succeeded each other. Emperor Go-Saga
    Emperor Go-Saga
    Emperor Go-Saga was the 88th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession...

     even decreed an official alternation between heirs of his two sons, which system continued for a couple of centuries (leading finally to shōgun-induced (or utilized) strife between these two branches, the "southern" and "northern" emperors). Towards the end, the alternates were very distant cousins counted in degrees of male descent (but all that time, intermarriages occurred within the imperial house, thus they were close cousins if female ties are counted). During the past five hundred years, however, probably due to Confucian
    Confucianism
    Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

     influence, inheritance by sons—but not always, or even most often, the eldest son—has been the norm.


Historically, the succession to Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne has always passed to descendants in male line from the imperial lineage. Generally they have been males, though of the over one hundred monarchs there have been nine women (one pre-historical and eight historical) as Emperor on eleven occasions. See the male line of the Yamato dynasty.

Over a thousand years ago, a tradition started that an emperor should ascend relatively young. A dynast who had passed his toddler years was regarded suitable and old enough. Reaching the age of legal majority was not a requirement. Thus, a multitude of Japanese emperors have ascended as children, as young as 6 or 8 years old. The high-priestly duties were deemed possible for a walking child. A reign of around ten years was regarded a sufficient service. Being a child was apparently a fine property, to better endure tedious duties and to tolerate subjugation to political power-brokers, as well as sometimes to cloak the truly powerful members of the imperial dynasty. Almost all Japanese empresses and dozens of emperors abdicated, and lived the rest of their lives in pampered retirement, wielding influence behind the scenes. Several emperors abdicated to their entitled retirement while still in their teens. These traditions show in Japanese folklore, theater, literature and other forms of culture, where the emperor is usually described or depicted as an adolescent.

Before the Meiji Restoration
Meiji Restoration
The , also known as the Meiji Ishin, Revolution, Reform or Renewal, was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868...

, Japan had eleven reigns of reigning empresses
Japanese imperial succession controversy
The Japanese imperial succession controversy refers to desires to change the laws of succession to the Japanese Throne, which is currently limited to males of the Japanese imperial family.- Overview :...

, all of them daughters of the male line of the Imperial House. None ascended purely as a wife or as a widow of an emperor. Imperial daughters and granddaughters, however, usually ascended the throne as a sort of a "stop gap" measure—if a suitable male was not available or some imperial branches were in rivalry so that a compromise was needed. Over half of Japanese empresses and many emperors abdicated once a suitable male descendant was considered to be old enough to rule (just past toddlerhood, in some cases). Four empresses, Empress Suiko
Empress Suiko
was the 33rd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Suiko's reign spanned the years from 593 until her death in 628....

, Empress Kōgyoku
Empress Kogyoku
, also known as , was the 35th and 37th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Kōgyoku's reign spanned the years from 642-645. Her reign as Saimei encompassed 655-661...

 (also Empress Saimei) and Empress Jitō
Empress Jito
was the 41st emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Jitō's reign spanned the years from 686 through 697.In the history of Japan, Jitō was the third of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant. The two female monarchs before Jitō were Suiko and Kōgyoku/Saimei...

, as well as the mythical Empress Jingū, were widows of deceased emperors and princesses of the blood imperial in their own right. One, Empress Gemmei
Empress Gemmei
, also known as Empress Genmyō, was the 43rd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Gemmei's reign spanned the years 707 through 715....

, was the widow of a crown prince and a princess of the blood imperial. The other four, Empress Genshō
Empress Gensho
was the 44th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Genshō's reign spanned the years 715 through 724.In the history of Japan, Genshō was the fifth of eight women to take on the role of empress regnant. The four female monarchs before Genshō were: Suiko, Kōgyoku/Saimei,...

, Empress Kōken
Empress Koken
, also known as , was the 46th and the 48th emperor of Japan respectively, according to the traditional order of succession. Empress Kōken first reigned from 749 to 758, then she reascended the throne as Empress Shōtoku from 765 until her death in 770....

 (also Empress Shōtoku), Empress Meishō
Empress Meisho
was the 109th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Meishō's reign spanned the years from 1629 to 1643.In the history of Japan, Meishō was the seventh of eight women to become empress regnant. The six female monarchs who reigned before Meishō-tennō were Suiko, ...

 and Empress Go-Sakuramachi
Empress Go-Sakuramachi
was the 117th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.Go-Sakuramachi's reign spanned the years from 1762 through 1771....

, were unwed daughters of previous emperors. None of these empresses married or gave birth after ascending the throne.

Article 2 of the 1889 Meiji Constitution
Meiji Constitution
The ', known informally as the ', was the organic law of the Japanese empire, in force from November 29, 1890 until May 2, 1947.-Outline:...

 (the Constitution of the Empire of Japan) stated, "The Imperial Throne shall be succeeded to by imperial male descendants, according to the provisions of the Imperial House Law." The 1889 Imperial Household Law fixed the succession on male descendants of the imperial line, and specifically excluded female descendants from the succession. In the event of a complete failure of the main line, the throne would pass to the nearest collateral branch, again in the male line. If the empress did not give birth to an heir, the emperor could take a concubine, and the son he had by that concubine would be recognized as heir to the throne. This law, which was promulgated on the same day as the Meiji Constitution
Meiji Constitution
The ', known informally as the ', was the organic law of the Japanese empire, in force from November 29, 1890 until May 2, 1947.-Outline:...

, enjoyed co-equal status with that constitution.

Article 2 of the Constitution of Japan
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

, promulgated in 1947 by influence of the U.S. occupation administration and still in force, 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
Imperial Household Law
is a statute in Japanese law that governs the line of imperial succession, the membership of the imperial family, and several other matters pertaining to the administration of the Imperial Household.-Passage of the Law:...

 of 16 January 1947, enacted by the ninety-second and last session of the Imperial Diet, retained the exclusion on female dynasts found in the 1889 law. The government of Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru hastily cobbled together the legislation to bring the Imperial Household in compliance with the American-written Constitution of Japan
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

 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 imperial princesses lose their status as Imperial Family members if they marry outside the Imperial Family; and that the Emperor and other members of the Imperial Family may not adopt children. It also prevented branches, other than the branch descending from Taishō, from being imperial princes any longer.

Current status


Succession is now regulated by laws passed by the Japanese Diet
Diet of Japan
The is Japan's bicameral legislature. It is composed of a lower house, called the House of Representatives, and an upper house, called the House of Councillors. Both houses of the Diet are directly elected under a parallel voting system. In addition to passing laws, the Diet is formally...

. The current law excludes women from the succession. A change to this law had been considered until Princess Kiko
Princess Akishino
, formerly is the wife of Prince Akishino, the second son of the Emperor Akihito and the Empress Michiko of Japan. The daughter of a university professor, she became the second commoner to marry into the imperial family; her mother-in-law, the Empress, was the first in 1959...

 gave birth to a son
Prince Hisahito of Akishino
is the third child of the Prince and Princess Akishino, and their only son. He is third in line to become Emperor of Japan.Prince Hisahito has two older sisters, Princess Mako of Akishino and Princess Kako of Akishino .- Name :His personal name Hisahito in this case means "serene and virtuous,"...

.

Until the birth of Prince Hisahito
Prince Hisahito of Akishino
is the third child of the Prince and Princess Akishino, and their only son. He is third in line to become Emperor of Japan.Prince Hisahito has two older sisters, Princess Mako of Akishino and Princess Kako of Akishino .- Name :His personal name Hisahito in this case means "serene and virtuous,"...

, son of Prince Akishino
Prince Akishino
Fumihito, The Prince Akishino is a member of the Japanese imperial family...

, on September 6, 2006, there was a potential succession
Order of succession
An order of succession is a formula or algorithm that determines who inherits an office upon the death, resignation, or removal of its current occupant.-Monarchies and nobility:...

 problem, since Prince Akishino was the only male child to be born into the imperial family since 1965. Following the birth of Princess Aiko
Aiko, Princess Toshi
, born 1 December 2001, is the daughter and only child of the heir apparent to the Japanese throne, Crown Prince Naruhito, and Crown Princess Masako....

, there was public debate about amending the current Imperial Household Law to allow women to succeed to the throne. In January 2005 Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi
is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006. He retired from politics when his term in parliament ended.Widely seen as a maverick leader of the Liberal Democratic Party , he became known as an economic reformer, focusing on Japan's government debt and the...

 appointed a special panel composed of judges, university professors, and civil servants to study changes to the Imperial Household Law and to make recommendations to the government.

The panel dealing with the succession issue recommended on October 25, 2005 amending the law to allow females of the male line of imperial descent to ascend the Japanese throne. On January 20, 2006, Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi
is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006. He retired from politics when his term in parliament ended.Widely seen as a maverick leader of the Liberal Democratic Party , he became known as an economic reformer, focusing on Japan's government debt and the...

 devoted part of his annual keynote speech to the controversy, pledging to submit a bill allowing women to ascend the throne to ensure that the succession continues in the future in a stable manner. Shortly after the announcement that Princess Kiko
Princess Akishino
, formerly is the wife of Prince Akishino, the second son of the Emperor Akihito and the Empress Michiko of Japan. The daughter of a university professor, she became the second commoner to marry into the imperial family; her mother-in-law, the Empress, was the first in 1959...

 was pregnant with her third child, Koizumi suspended such plans. Her son, Prince Hisahito
Prince Hisahito of Akishino
is the third child of the Prince and Princess Akishino, and their only son. He is third in line to become Emperor of Japan.Prince Hisahito has two older sisters, Princess Mako of Akishino and Princess Kako of Akishino .- Name :His personal name Hisahito in this case means "serene and virtuous,"...

, is the third in line to the throne under the current law of succession. On January 3, 2007, Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Japan
The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

 Shinzo Abe
Shinzo Abe
was the 90th Prime Minister of Japan, elected by a special session of the National Diet on 26 September 2006. He was Japan's youngest post–World War II prime minister and the first born after the war. Abe served as prime minister for nearly twelve months, before resigning on 12 September 2007...

 announced that he would drop the proposal to alter the Imperial Household Law
Imperial Household Law
is a statute in Japanese law that governs the line of imperial succession, the membership of the imperial family, and several other matters pertaining to the administration of the Imperial Household.-Passage of the Law:...

.

External links