Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Monarchy Profile: Japan

Name: The State of Japan
Reigning Monarch: His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito
Reigning Family: Yamato dynasty
Status: Japan has been a constitutional monarchy since the time of the “Meiji Restoration” but a new constitution was adopted after World War II and the transition of the country from the ‘Empire of Japan’ to the ‘State of Japan’. The Emperor has no political power or real role in government. It is even debatable whether he is the actual Head of State of Japan though he certainly fills that role. According to the constitution, the Emperor is the “symbol of the state and the unity of the people”. He is specifically denied the title of “sovereign” as in the new constitution popular sovereignty was adopted. He appoints the prime minister but has no choice in who is appointed nor can he refuse to appoint the designated individual. However, the Emperor is still a central figure in the native Shinto religion, still held by some to be a descendent of divine figures and the living embodiment of the Japanese nation. In general the Emperor and Imperial Family in Japan are spoken of only in formal and respectful tones and debate about the monarchy can still excite deep passions amongst the Japanese people. The imperial monarchy of Japan is the oldest hereditary succession in the world, dating back to traceless antiquity and most could not imagine Japan without an Emperor. His presence, regardless of actual authority, has been an anchor of stability in radically changing times.


  1. Sadly, Japan may be one of the only constitutional monarchies that could accurately be described as a "crowned republic".

  2. I would say *almost*. There are others more worthy of the title I think only because the monarchy in Japan is so ancient and so bound up with the history and traditions of the country even today. It is significant that the Emperor is called the 'symbol of the nation'. Others in Europe say that but I don't get the feeling that they mean it the same way the Japanese always have because for them it is nothing new really. Even though the powers and part in government of the Emperor are diminished to nothing they still recognize, by that line in the law, that Japan IS the Emperor and the Emperor IS Japan.

    1. "Men of Japan, Currently, Imperial order of surrender is only a result of common sense inspired thoughts, whatever they would be. Nevertheless the Allied states with their actions are responsible for causing The War For The Great Eastern Asia and I fought it without having any other choice, for the sake of survival of our nation and inurement of our national interests. Despite our state, to my greatest regret, was vanquished by those states, the reason, why we leave there is undeniable: Japan is a divine land. I wish, that you wouldst be confident in the fate of our empire and will wait for the time, when difficulties will get overcomed with your united faithful efforts. I wish, that sun would rise once again."

      These were the last words of an adamant monarchist, loyal servant of His Imperial Majesty The Mikado and his people, my personal hero and just a magnanimous man with a golden heart, prime minister Tojo Hideki. This is his covenant to me as well as (and unfortunately not as many of my compatriots, think this way, as I would like) all our nation.

      Unfortunately, as someone, who is observing this situation from inside, I should admit, that Npinkpanther-dono is 100% right. But let us see into the history (continues in next post):

    2. After His Imperial Majesty Mikado Shirakawa The Second resigned and became a monk, throne was taken by his son Takakura-mikado, who had 6 wives, of whom he loved the most Taira-no Tokuko (later known as Her Imperial Majesty Empress Kenrei), who bore him a son, who would later become His Imperial Majesty Antoku-mikado. Shirakawa The Second, on the other hand with years became suspicious of Tokoko, a daughter of prime minister Taira-no Kiyomori (and her son, as his relations with Heike clan in general as well as prime minister Kiyomori in particular started to get worse), favoring more Fujiwara-no Shokushi, coming from (in*)famous Fujiwara court noble family.

      In year 1840 (1180 in western calendar) two terrible things happen: prime minister Taira-no Kiyomori dies and Takakura-mikado falls terribly ill. Before he passes away next year, he issues a rescript, that Antoku-mikado will ascend to throne. Heard that, still alive Shirakawa the Second tries to void a rescript with his own authority (although having no legal right, according to Heian period laws, to do so) and declare a newborn Takahira-shinno (later known as His Imperial Majesty Toba the Second) a new legitimate heir, calling for Heike clan's old enemy, Genji clan and it's most fearsome warlord Minamoto-no Yoshitsune for help this results in a 5 years of war between Heike clan, loyal to the legitimate Antoku-mikado and "usurper" (he was an infant) Toba The Second, supported by Genji clan. As a result, Heike clan looses the war and perishes along with legitimate emperor in the battle of Dan-no-ura (year 1185 by western calendar), near Shimonoseki. Genji clan swiftly takes power, and Minamoto-no Yoritomo (who sat all war in Kamakura and did nothing) pays his brother Yoshitsune (who actually fought Heike clan and commanded the troops) for their victory by ordering him dead.

      This way started a 683 years when His imperial majesty, The Mikado had no real political power (Maybe a little bit more, than he has today), country was governed by military junta (bakufu) with a military dictator (Shogun) as it's head. His Majesty had to formally appoint Shogun and had little if no choice at all, whom should he appoint.

      If we do not count in an effort of Daigo The Second to restore imperial power, all these 7 centuries power was not in the hands of His Imperial Majesty, it became a tradition and a natural way of life. Unlike some say, bakufu did not fall due to or under the pressure of "black ships" and "western barbarians", bakufu actually was very convenient for the foreign powers, who managed to force unjust and biased trade agreements on it, but then the miracle happened: a 15 year old boy, His Imperial Majesty Meiji-mikado, raised in old traditions, by parents, who wanted only peace and harmony for the household and for the people ( exactly like Imperial Family), without any real prequesites from the point of education as soon as ascended to the throne sayed "Enough of that!" and without hesitation, doubt or mercy for those, who opposed him, vanquished enemies of the throne ande restore his power.

      This miracle HAS to happen again, when despite of soft nature of our current Imperial household, new Mikado will grow up confident, brave, strong-spirited and will himself believe with whole his heart, that HE is Japan and will not hesitate to once again take arms into his hands to vanquish enemies of the throne once again.

    3. All true, even the words of the much-maligned General Tojo. Japan was forced into a position of having to submit to foreign powers or fight and so chose to fight as any country would do. Likewise, the Meiji Restoration, while prompted by increasing western involvement in Japan, was certainly not caused by it as is evidenced by the fact that both the Shogun and the Imperial court had western sympathizers. I hope to, in the future, write some articles about Emperors Meiji and Komei to demonstrate in practical terms how this worked out to Japan's advantage.

      I would also agree that another "restoration" of sorts is called for. First, it is the people who must embrace again the traditional values of the country with a healthy national pride that values activity rather than aloofness. When that is done, it may be possible for the Emperor to become a more central figure. I would advise caution though when it comes to 'vanquishing enemies'. I have seen too many whose minds are stuck in the past and I fear they would risk inadvertently helping the enemies of Japan by antagonizing those who were the enemy in the past but are allies today. I have written a few times on that subject here:

  3. He is the last (I suppose) Emperor on Earth, therefore we owe respect for him, regardless of religion, and views on which monarchy is better.

    Funny thing is, that the main liberal and leftist newspaper in Poland wrote today about his Imperial Majesty and stated that he is certainly a democrat (sic!).

  4. I always wondered just how the Japanese people themselves feel. Despite conventional Wisdom saying that all people long for Democracy and would, if given the Chance, increase it, Liechtenstein vote din referendum to increase the Power of their Archduke. The People of Sark, from what I've heard, are growing disillusioned with Democracy but feel pressured to remain one, and many of the Lands in Arabia think that their Monarchies are doing well.

    So I wonder, if given the Chance, woudl japan increase the power of their Emperor? Japan has no Military and its defenses are handle by America, this is part of the concessions they made after World War 2, along ewith the new Cosntitution thsat renders the Emperor powerless. But 65 years have passed, so what if they decided on a new deal, a Constitution which allows them to have their own Military? If this happens, the international community wouldn't complain but think it just puts an end to the Era of the Post War control of Japan, and if a new Constitutional convention is Held, would there be support for increasing His Imperial Majesty's power?

  5. The thing is, that there is no incentive for Japan as a state to do that. As long as it has military protection provided willfully by the U.S.A., there is no reason it would develop its own military (from a Realist position in International Relations anyway). Of course, they may elect to do so from a patriotic, nationalist, or emotional reason.

    I think that overall however, Monarchy is being seen more and more as a plausible alternative to democracy yet again in all of the world.

  6. I will just point out that Japan does have a military and in recent years they have even participated in some international coalitions. They are "self-defense forces" rather than the old imperial military, and they are limited but they are by no means unarmed. The Japanese navy in particular is a very advanced and well trained force that even the PRC does not take lightly (their own naval forces being rather behind the times though advancing rapidly).

  7. Japan in my opinion should modify his constitution in 3 points.
    1) Them Emperor of Japan should have the powers that he used to have before the american ocupation but with some reforms in the legislative power like that he only could make projects of law and more democratic goverment.
    2)Japan should change his name to his former name The Great Empire of Japan.
    3)They should abolish that stupid article of the ban any kind of war because the war is necesary to protect the country of some other countryes like north korea and PRC

  8. I would consider such modifications an improvment on all three counts.


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