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Friday, June 16, 2017

Meet Japan's Imperial Royal Family - 2017

Like most things Japan, when you try to take more than a surface look at things, you find out that it is far more complicated than you originally thought.

Now add in myth, godhood, sexism, World War II, samurai and shogun warlords, not to mention gaijin (foreigner/outsider) interference, and me looking at Japanese royalty is one effing difficult topic… one that I am sure has spawned more than its fair share of textbooks on the subject.

But what the heck… let’s try and cram it all together to learn a bit about Japanese royalty and why it’s a dying breed—no pun intended.

What is a royal family?

Japan’s royal family has three names… the Imperial Family, the Imperial House, and the Yamato dynasty.

In Japan, only men may become the leading ruler of Japan— the Emperor of Japan.

It’s not uncommon… United Kingdom, for example, is the the same. It took a weird bunch of circumstances for monarchs such as Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I and II to take possession of the throne.

In Japan, there have been six different female rulers (Empress), two of whom reigned twice, meaning at eight different points in Japan’s history, a woman has ruled the country as its Empress.

But it’s not as progressive as you might hope… These Empresses ruled during Japan’s early years between 593-770AD.

At least the Japanese monarchy data is considered to be “more real than myth” since just before the 593AD date…

So… it’s mostly been a sausage party when it comes to coronations.

皇室, or  kōshitsu, is the phrase used when denoting the Imperial House of Japan.

With the Emperor as the symbol of the State and the unity of he people, other extended members of the royal family only perform ceremonial and social duties and have zero role in government affairs.

So… who are these extended members outside of the Emperor?

Well, according to Wikipedia and Article 5 of the Imperial Household Law known as the Kōshitsu Tenpan (皇室典範), the Imperial family includes the:
  • Empress (kōgō, 皇后);
  • Grand Empress Dowager (tai-kōtaigō, 太皇太后);
  • Emperor’s legitimate sons and grandsons in the legitimate male-line (shinnō, 親王);
  • Consorts (wives) of those sons and grandsons (shinnōhi, 親王妃);
  • Emperor’s unmarried legitimate daughters and granddaughters in the legitimate male-line (naishinnō, 内親王);
  • Emperor’s other legitimate male descendants in the third and later generations of the legitimate male-line (ō, 王);
  • Consorts (wives) of those other legitimate male descendants in the third and later generations of the legitimate male-line (ōhi, 王妃), and;
  • Emperor’s other unmarried legitimate female descendants in the third and later generations in the legitimate male-line (joō, 女王).
So, if you are a royal woman who isn’t the Empress or Grand Empress dowager, as soon as you get married, you lose your right to be considered part of the Japanese Imperial family.

This holds true if you, a single female royal marry a Japanese plumber or if you marry a British royal (for example)… you are no longer a part of the Japanese Imperial family… but obviously you are, in this example now a British Royal and part of that family (but not if you marry a plumber of any sort - no offense).

The diminishing male line within Japan’s Imperial Family has led to concern that it may actually die out one decade soon.

The Japanese male line of descendants in the Imperial family was greatly reduced as a “punishment” to Japan by Allied forces following Japan’s defeat in WWII.

Led by American “peacekeepers” who re-wrote Japan’s current Constitution, the Emperor not only was forced to renounce his divine claim on Godhood making him a mere mortal to the Japanese and the rest of the world, but they also had Japan remove 11 so-called collateral branches of family from the Imperial House back in October of 1947.

After that point, only the immediate family of Emperor Hirohito and those of his three brothers retained membership in the Imperial Family.

Basically, what this means is that the Royal Family is now only allowed to consist of descendants from Japanese Emperor Taisho, who was the emperor and father of Emperor Hirohito… who ruled during WWII, and thus in the eyes of WWII winner’s was as much to blame for the war as anyone else in Japan.

Taisho ruled Japan from July 301, 1912 until his death on December 25, 1926. He was the 123rd Emperor of Japan.

The now extinct 11 Collateral Branches of the Imperial Family
Okay, that sub-head sounds harsh… it’s not like people from within those branches are no longer living, rather it is more accurate to state that that the 11 branches are no longer considered to be part of the Japanese Imperial Family lineage.

These now extinct branches of the Japanese Royal Family are called the Ōke (which literally translates into the Princely Houses, 王家) or the Old Imperial Family (旧皇族).

These family branches were created from the Fushimi-no-miya House.

WTF is the Fushimi-no-miya House?

The Fushimi-no-miya House (伏見宮) is the oldest of the four shinnōke (heads of each branch were essentially given the title of Prince), branches of the Imperial Family of Japan which were eligible to succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne in the event that the main line should die out. IE, no male heir.

The Fushimi-no-miya was founded by Prince Yoshihito (Fushimi-no-miya Yoshihito shinnō, 伏見宮 栄仁親王), the son of the Northern Court Emperor Sukō. As the house was founded by a Northern Pretender, the first three princes are sometimes not recognized as legitimate Fushimi-no-miya Princes. Still, Yoshito succeed in 1409 as Emperor.

So basically, the princes of the Ōke were on stand-by to rule Japan should it be found that no male heir existed from within the loins of the sitting Emperor.

Basically “thanks for coming”. You know what I mean.

Right now, there are a total of 19 people within Japan’s Imperial Family.

Five of them are male, meaning 14 are women:
  1. Emperor Akihito (明仁), born on December 23, 1933, becoming emperor on January 7, 1989;
  2. Empress Michiko born 正田美智子 Shōda Michiko (surname first) on October 20, 1934, becoming empress on January 7, 1989;
  3. Crown Prince Naruhito, the eldest son of the current Emperor, 皇太子徳仁親王? Kōtaishi Naruhito Shinnō, was born February 23, 1960. He is the heir apparent to the Japanese Chrysanthemum Throne;
  4. Crown Princess Masako was born Masako Owada (surname first, 小和田雅子) on December 9, 1963. She is the wife of Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan;
  5. Princess Toshi, born December 1, 2001, the only child of the Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan. She is the grand-daughter of the current emperor of Japan;
  6. Prince Akishino Fumihito (秋篠宮文仁親王, Akishino-no-miya Fumihito Shinnō) was born on November 30, 1965. He is the younger son of Emperor Akihito (and Empress Michiko), and is second-in-line to the throne. He heads his own branch of the Imperial Family;
  7. Princess Akishino Kiko (文仁親王妃紀子? Fumihito Shinnōhi Kiko), born on September 11, 1966 as Kawashima Kiko (surname first, 川嶋紀子). She is the wife of Prince Akishino (No. 6 on this list). She is known as Princess Kiko;
  8. Princess Akishino Mako (眞子内親王, Mako Naishinnō - surname first) was born on October 23, 1991, and is the first child and oldest daughter of , Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko and is the oldest grandchild of Emperor Akihito;
  9. Princess Akishino Kako (佳子内親王, Kako Naishinnō - surname first), was born December 29, 1994, and is the second daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Akishino, and is the second-eldest grandchild of Emperor Akihito;
  10. Prince Akihshini Hisahito (悠仁親王, Hisahito Shinnō - surname first), he was born September 6, 2006, and is the youngest child and only son of  Prince Akishino, and the youngest grandchild of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. He is third-in-line to become Emperor of Japan, after his uncle, Naruhito and his father, Fumihito;
  11. Prince Hitachi Masahito is the younger brother of current Emperor Akihito. He is the second son and sixth-born child of Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kōjun and is fourth-in-line to the Chrysanthemum Throne. 常陸宮正仁親王,  Hitachi-no-miya Masahito Shinnō, was born on November 28, 1935. He does not have any children;
  12. Princess Hitachi Hanako was born July 19, 12940 as 津軽華子, Tsugaru Hanako, she is the wife of Prince Hitachi (No. 11). She does not have any children;
  13. Princess Mikasa Yuriko was born as 高木百合子, Takagi Yuriko (surname first) on June 4,  1923. She is the widow of Prince Mikasa Takahito who was the fourth son of Emperor Taishō. She is the oldest member of Japan’s Imperial family;
  14. Princess Mikasa Tomohito was born as 麻生信子, Asō Nobuko (surname first) on April 9, 1955. She is the widow of Prince Tomohito of Mikasa (who was at one time sixth-in-line to the throne, and a first cousin of Emperor Akihito). She has two daughters;
  15. Princess Mikasa Akiko, surname first as 彬子女王, Akiko Joō was born on December 20, 1981, and is the oldest daughter of Prince Tomohito of Mikasa and Princess Tomohito of Mikasa (Nobuko);
  16. Princess Mikasa Yōko was born 瑶子女王, Yōko Joō on October 25, 1983. She is the second daughter of Prince Tomohito of Mikasa and Princess Tomohito of Mikasa (Nobuko);
  17. Princess Takamado Hisako (surname first) as 鳥取久子, Tottori Hisako on July 10, 1953. She is the widow of Prince Takamado Norihito (Norihito Shinnō, December 19, 1954 – November 21, 2002). He was the first cousin of Emperor Akihito and was the seventh-in-line to the throne. He died of heart failure after collapsing whilst playing squash with Canadian ambassador George G. Wright at the Canadian Embassy. The Princess has three daughters, with one of them marrying some commoner - so out of the Imperial Family she goes;
  18. Princess Takamado Tsuguku (surname first) as 承子女王, Tsuguko Joō. She was born March 8, 1986, and is the oldest daughter of Prince Takamado and Princess Takamado;
  19. Princess Takamado Ayako (surname first) as 絢子女王, Ayako Joō. She was born on September 15, 1990, and is the youngest daughter/child of Prince Takamado and Princess Takamado.
To conclude, No. 5 on the above list is where problems exist for Japan’s Imperial family.
Princess Toshi—being female—can not inherit the mantle of Emperor. She could become Empress, but only if no possible options exist for an emperor from within the family to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.

If the current Crown Prince and Princess do not have a male heir, then the line of succession falls to the Current Emperor Akihito’s second eldest son Prince Akishino (no. 6 on this list), and if he passes before ascending the throne, then to his oldest son Prince Hisahito (No. 10 on this list).

If, buddha forbid, Prince Akishino and his son Prince Hisahito die, right now there are no more male heirs to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

It’s why Japan is seriously considering allowing married female royals to retain their royal standing as part of the Imperial Family… and therefore allowing for the possibility of an Empress to once again rule Japan with an iron fist. :)

Hmmm… I had a princess Nobuko…

Andrew Joseph   

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