Japanese Imperial Family (皇室)

The Imperial Family is a generic term for the Emperor and the members of the Imperial Family. Before World War II, it was called in Japanese Teishitsu rather than Koshitsu as currently used. It includes both the Inner Court which consists of a family of the Emperor and inner-court members of the Imperial Family, and the princely houses, each of which comprises a prince other than the Crown Prince and his family. More specifically, it is composed of the Emperor, his consort, the Empress, the widowed consort of the previous Emperor, the Empress Dowager, and the widowed consort of the Emperor before the previous one, the Grand Empress Dowager. It also includes the Crown Prince, princes who are the male children of an Emperor by his consort and other princes (imperial family) who are male members of the Family. Furthermore, it comprises princesses who are the female children of an emperor by his consort and other princesses (imperial family) born into the Imperial Family. The spouses of the princes become princesses (imperial family) as Imperial Family members upon marriage.

Inner court

The Emperor resides in the Imperial Residence on the grounds of the Imperial Palace. The Board of the Chamberlains is an internal division of The Imperial Household Agency, administering the affairs of the Imperial Couple and their unmarried children.

Akihito

Empress Michiko

The Crown Prince and His Family

Although inner-court members of the Imperial Family, the Crown Prince, the Consort of the Crown Prince and their children set up a separate household, independent of the Emperor. They reside in the Crown Prince Palace on the grounds of the Akasaka Detached Palace. The Board of the Crown Prince's Household is an internal division of the Imperial Household Agency, administering the affairs of the Crown Prince family.

Crown Prince Naruhito

Crown Princess Masako

Princess Aiko

The House of Prince Akishino

The House of Prince Akishino is the premier princely house in direct descent from the current Emperor. Their residence is located on the grounds of the Akasaka Detached Palace.

Fumihito, Prince Akishino

Kiko, Princess Akishino

Princess Mako of Akishino

Princess Kako of Akishino

Prince Hisahito of Akishino

The House of Prince Hitachi

The House of Prince Hitachi is a princely house in direct descent from Emperor Showa. Their residence is located in the Tokiwamatsu Imperial Villa in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo.

Masahito, Prince Hitachi

Hanako, Princess Hitachi

The House of Prince Mikasa

The House of Prince Mikasa is a princely house in direct descent from Emperor Taisho. Their residence is located on the grounds of the Akasaka Detached Palace.

Takahito, Prince Mikasa

Yuriko, Princess Mikasa

The House of Prince Tomohito

Although the House of Prince Tomohito is not an independent princely house, it is treated as such by the Imperial House Economy Law, thus permitted to have a separate account. Their residence is located on the grounds of the Akasaka Detached Palace.

Prince Tomohito of Mikasa

Nobuko, Princess Tomohito of Mikasa

Princess Akiko of Mikasa

Princess Yoko of Mikasa

The House of Prince Katsura

The House of Prince Katsura has become independent of the House of Prince Mikasa. Prince Katsura has no family as he has established his own princely house without getting married.

Yoshihito, Prince Katsura

The House of Prince Takamado

The House of Prince Takamado is a princely house, newly established by Norihito, Prince Takamado, the third son of Prince Takahito of Mikasa. Its current head is Kikuko, Princess Norihito as Prince Norihito has passed away without leaving a male heir. Their residence is located on the grounds of the Akasaka Detached Palace.

Kikuko, Princess Norihito of Takamado

Princess Tsuguko of Takamado

Princess Noriko of Takamado

Princess Ayako of Takamado

The Imperial Family's activities

The contemporary Imperial Family is engaged in many activities. The Emperor carries Yasakami no Magatama, which is one of the three sacred imperial treasures, whenever he travels both within and without Japan. Immediately after the War, Emperor Showa made an imperial tour throughout the country. However, such a grand tour has seldom been made.

Official duties inside the Palace

State affairs
According to Articles 6 and 7 of the Constitution of Japan, the Emperor must administer state affairs. He can however appoint a regent from the Imperial Family or a temporary replacement who undertakes state affairs for him. The state affairs include the Ceremonies of New Year Reception, Imperial Investiture, Appointment of Officials with Imperial Attestation, Imperial Conferment of Decoration, and Presentation of Credentials.

People's visit to the Palace

On New Year Celebration and the Emperor's Birthday, the public can visit the Palace to offer their congratulations. The Emperor and Imperial Family members appear on the balcony of the Chowaden Hall of the Palace ('the imperial advent') to receive the public's congratulations. While 'The Ceremony of New Year Reception,' held in the presence of the heads of the three branches of the government is a state affair, 'People's Visit to the Palace for the New Year Greeting' is regarded as one of the imperial public activities other than the state affairs.

Garden parties

Garden parties are social gatherings hosted by the Emperor and Empress. They are held at the Akasaka Imperial Gardens twice every year, in spring and autumn.

Imperial court rituals

Imperial court rituals are performed for the purpose of good harvests and national / public peace. Important rituals are conducted on current national holidays (e.g. the Spring Commemoration for the Imperial Spirits on the Spring Equinox Day).

Promotion of international friendship

The Imperial Family has close relationships with foreign royal families. Following a convention, it customarily lowers the flag to half-staff and observes mourning when a member of a royal family passes away.

On the occasion of the 'Ceremony of Presentation of Credentials' as part of the 'Reception of Foreign Diplomats,' which is counted among the state affairs, a newly-appointed ambassador is offered the service of a horse-drawn carriage for transportation. When an ambassador prefers a carriage, he rides from Tokyo Station (at the time of writing, in front of the Meiji Life Insurance Headquarters as the station is under refurbishment) up to the carriage way of the Main Palace on the grounds of the Imperial Palace. Many ambassadors apparently prefer a carriage to a limousine, which is also offered. The carriage service has contributed to the nurturing of friendly relations with countries (according to the website of the Imperial Household Agency). In August 2007 it was cancelled due to equine influenza.

Imperial public activities

Following the examples of Emperor Meiji and other past emperors, the Emperor continues to make 'imperial visits' to all parts of Japan like Emperor Showa did.

Observing the tradition of the imperial families in the past, especially after the Meiji period, the current Family is engaged in social activities in welfare, education and the like as 'public activities.'

Typically, as guests of honors, they attend ceremonies and often 'address' audiences: congratulations, condolences, or inaugural or concluding speeches.

They are also dedicated to visiting medical, social welfare or juvenile facilities as well as war memorials.

People's visit to the Palace

On the day of People's Visit to the Palace for the New Year Greeting, the Emperor and Imperial Family members make 'special appearances' on the balcony of the Chowaden Hall of the Palace seven times to receive the public's New Year greetings. Likewise on the Emperor's Birthday the Emperor and Imperial Family members receive the public's congratulations at the Palace (in the fiscal 2008 a record high of 22,655 people visited the Palace according to the Imperial Household Agency).

New Year poetry reading

A New Year poetry reading is a poetry gathering to celebrate the New Year, held by the Palace as part of the imperial public activities.

The public can send their verses on specified themes to the Palace (for more information see the page on New Year Poetry Reading).

Public volunteer work

The Imperial Household Agency allows the public to voluntarily participate in cleaning the Palace.

To clean the Palace, those who wish to offer their voluntary services must form a group, which then applies for a volunteer opportunity to the Agency.

Volunteer groups will be decided by lot if many apply. Their main tasks include weeding, cleaning and gardening.

Every year, many school organizations, women's groups in the neighborhood and other groups apply for volunteer work.

This practice reportedly goes back to a group of volunteers, 'Mikuni Hoshidan((Volunteers for Imperial Japan) who were distressed at the sorry state of the Palace immediately after the defeat in 1945. The volunteers will be granted bows from the Emperor and Empress as well as the Crown Prince and Princess (a meeting with and greeting to them). In former times they were given imperial cigarettes, now replaced by sweets.

The public's visit to Imperial Palaces

The public are allowed to visit the Imperial Palaces in Tokyo, Kyoto and Sento, as well as the Katsura Imperial Villa and other establishments if they make advance reservations with the Imperial Household Agency.

Traditional culture of the Imperial Family

Gagaku (ancient court music)

Imperial New Year's lectures

New Year's poetry reading

Kemari (ancient football game of the Imperial Court)

Traditional horsemanship in Japan: Dakyu (ancient Japanese polo) and Horohiki (pennants streaming)

Kamoba (imperial wild duck reserves)

Goryo Ukai (imperial cormorant fishing)

Laws relevant to the Imperial Family

The Constitution of Japan

Imperial House Act

Act for Extraordinary Vicarious Execution of State Affairs

Imperial House Economy Law

Enforcement Law of Imperial House Economy Law

Imperial Household Agency Law

The Imperial Household Agency:

Administration of imperial affairs

Imperial Guard Headquarters:

Protection of the Emperor and Imperial Family

Imperial Household Council:

Discussing matters important to the Imperial Family, together with imperial members who are also members of the council

Imperial Household Economy Council:

Discussing matters important to imperial economy

Office of the Shotens:

Administering the religious ceremonies in the Imperial Palace.

TV programs on the Imperial Family

Koshitsu Arubamu (Imperial Album, Mainichi Broadcasting System)

Koshitsu Goikka (The Imperial Family, Fuji Television)

Koshitsu Nikki (Imperial Diary, Nippon Television Network)