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Imperial Household Agency


Imperial Household Agency

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The Imperial Household Agency (宮内庁 Kunai-chō) 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. From around the 8th century AD up to the Second World War, it was named the Imperial Household Ministry (宮内省 Kunai-shō).

The Agency is unique among conventional government agencies in that it does not directly report to the Prime Minister at the cabinet level, nor is affected by legislation such as that which established national museums as Independent Administrative Institutions.


  • Organization and functions 1
  • History 2
    • Meiji era 2.1
    • Imperial Household Office, 1947–1949 2.2
    • Imperial Household Agency, 1949–present 2.3
  • Criticism 3
  • Grand Stewards 4
  • See also 5
  • Explanatory notes 6
  • Citations 7
  • References 8
    • Further reading 8.1
  • External links 9

Organization and functions

Imperial Household Agency building on the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

The Agency is headed by the Grand Steward and he is assisted by the Vice-Grand Steward.[1] The main organization elements are:

  • the Grand Steward's Secretariat[1]
  • the Board of the Chamberlains[1]
  • the Crown Prince's Household[1]
  • the Board of Ceremonies[1]
  • the Archives and Mausolea Department[1]
  • the Maintenance and Works Department[1]
  • the Kyoto Office[1]

The current Grand Steward is Noriyuki Kazaoka.[2][3]

The agency's headquarters is located within the grounds of the residences scattered throughout the country. Visitors who wish to tour the Kyoto Gosho, the Katsura Detached Palace, and other sites, should register for guided tours with the agency first.

The Agency has responsibility for the health, security and travel arrangements of the Imperial family, including maintaining the Imperial line. A "Grand Master of the Household" helps manage the schedules, dining menus, and household maintenance for the family.


Imperial Household Agency building is located near the Sakashita gate of the palace

The Imperial Household Agency can trace its origins back to the institutions established by the Taiho Code (or more formally "The Ritsuryō Code of the Taihō era" (大宝律令 Taihō Ritsuryō)) promulgated in 701–702 AD.[4] The Ritsuryō system established the namesake Ministry of the Imperial Household (宮内省 Kunai shō) which is a precursor to the present agency. The old code also gave rise to the Ministry of Ceremonial (式部省 Shikibu shō) which has its legacy in the Board of the Ceremonies (式部職 Shikibu shoku) under the current agency, and the Ministry of Civil Administration (治部省 Jibu shō) which oversaw the Bureau of Music (雅楽寮 Uta ryō) that would now correspond to the Agency's Music Department (楽部 gakubu).[5] The basic structures remained in place until the Meiji Restoration (1868).[4]

Meiji era

The early Meiji government officially installed Imperial Household Ministry (宮内省 Kunai shō) on 15 August 1869.[6][1] However, there is a convoluted history of reorganization around how the government bodies that correspond to constituent subdivisions of the current Agency were formed or empowered during this period.

The Department of Shinto Affairs (神祇官 Jingi kan) and later the Ministry of Shinto Affairs (神祇省 Jingi shō) (1871–1872) were briefly in existence and placed in charge of, e.g., the Imperial mausolea (ja)[7] under the Office of Imperial Mausolea (諸陵寮), one of the tasks designated to the Agency today.

Meanwhile, the Meiji government created the Board of Ceremonies (式部局 Shikibu-kyoku) in 1871, which was soon renamed Bureau of Ceremonies (式部寮, Shikibu-ryō) in 1872. And by 1872 the Ministry of Shinto Affairs was abolished, with the bulk of duties moved to the Kyōbu sho (教部省 "Department (Ministry) of Religion and Education") and the administration of formal ceremonial functions transferred to the aforementioned Board/Bureau of the Ceremonies.[8][9][10][2]

The Bureau of the Ceremonies was initially under the sway of the Great Council of State (太政官 Dajō kan) but was transferred to the control of the Imperial Household Ministry in September 1877.[11] The Bureau underwent yet another name change to Board of Ceremonies (式部職 Shikibu-shoku) in October 1884.[11]

An Imperial Order in 1908 confirmed that the Imperial Household Minister, as the chief official was then called, was responsible for assisting the Emperor in all matters concerning the Imperial House.[4]

The ministry also oversaw the official appointments of Imperial Household Artists and commissioned their work.

Imperial Household Office, 1947–1949

The Imperial Household Office (宮内府 Kunai fu) was a downgraded version of the ministry, created pursuant to Imperial Household Office Law (宮内府法) (Law No. 70 of 1947) during the American Occupation of Japan. Its staff size was downscaled from 6,200 to less than 1,500, and the Office was placed under the Prime Minister of Japan.[4][12][3]

Imperial Household Agency, 1949–present

In 1949, Imperial Household Office became the Imperial Household Agency (the current name), and placed under the fold of the newly created Prime Minister's Office (総理府 Sōrifu), as an external agency attached to it.[4]

In 2001, the Imperial Household Agency was organizationally re-positioned under the Cabinet Office (内閣府 Naikakufu).[4]


The Agency has been criticized for isolating members of the Imperial Family from the Japanese public, and for insisting on hidebound customs rather than permitting a more approachable, populist monarchy. These criticisms have become more muted in recent years; Emperor Akihito has himself done much to make the Japanese monarchy less aloof.

Prince Naruhito, in May 2004, criticised the then-Grand Steward of the Imperial Household, Toshio Yuasa (ja), for putting pressure on Princess Masako, Naruhito's wife, to bear a male child. At a press conference, Naruhito said that his wife had "completely exhausted herself" trying to adapt to the imperial family's life, and added "there were developments that denied Masako's career (up to our marriage) as well as her personality."[13][14][15] It has officially been stated that Masako is suffering from an "adjustment disorder", but there has been extensive speculation in the press that she is suffering from clinical depression as a result of her treatment by Imperial Household officials.[16]

Increasingly in recent years, the Agency's prevention of archaeological research regarding a large number (more than 740) of Kofun Era tombs putatively designated as "imperial" has come under criticism from academics. Such research, particularly on the ancient tombs in the Kansai region of western Japan, has the potential to yield a great bounty of information on the origins of Japanese civilization. The possibility that such finds could verify theories of formative civilizational ties with contemporary civilizations in China and the Korean Peninsula, with commensurate influence on thought about the origins of the Imperial Household itself, is generally considered to be the greater part of the jealousy with which the agency guards its authority over this large number of tombs (many of which are likely imperial only in name), and prevents scientific inquiry into these sites.[17][18][19]

The Agency has been portrayed as controlling every aspect of the lives of the members of the Imperial Family, both public and private, and exerting near-total control over them, from staff appointments to wardrobe selection. As with the imperial family itself, positions in the 1300-year-old Agency are hereditary. Nine out of ten requests from the imperial family, even the Emperor himself, are rejected. Masako, for instance, was denied browsing a bookstore, visiting her family, or calling her old college friends around the world or even going out for a cup of coffee.[20]

Grand Stewards

The Imperial Household Agency is headed by the Grand Steward (ja) (Imperial Household Agency Law (ja), Article 8-1), whose appointment or dismissal is subject to the Emperor's approval (Article 8-2).

The Grand Steward is vested with comprehensive control over administrate activities within the agency, and supervisory authority over the service performance of the staff (8–3). He is empowered to interact with the prime minister on matters pertaining the agency's authorized duties, either requesting the issuance of National Police Agency to take appropriate measures regarding administrative duties that involve the civilian Imperial Guard (皇宮警察 Kōgū Keisatsu).

The Grand Stewardship is a post customarily filled by former administrative vice-ministers (ja) (≒permanent secretaries) at one of several interior affairs (home affairs) type ministries and agencies, or someone with a closely approximating curriculum vitae (e.g., Superintendent General of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department), after having served as Vice-Grand Steward.

Grand Stewards past and present
Number Name term of office ex-service Remarks
Grand Stewards of the Imperial Household Office
1 Matsudaira Yoshitami (ja) 3 May 1947 – 5 Jun 1948 Imperial Household Ministry
2 Tajima Michiji (ja) 5 Jun 1948 – 31 May 1949 civilian cont.
Grand Stewards of the Imperial Household Agency
1 Michiji Tajima 1 Jun 1949 – 16 Dec 1953 civilian
2 Takeshi Usami (ja) 16 Dec 1953 – 26 May 1978 Home Ministry
3 Tomohiko Tomita (ja) 26 May 1978 – 14 Jun 1988 National Police Agency
4 Shōichi Fujimori (ja) 14 Jun 1988 – 19 Jan 1996 Ministry of Welfare, ex-Environment Agency
5 Sadame Kamakura (ja) 19 Jan 1996 – 2 Apr 2001 National Police Agency
6 Toshio Yuasa (ja) 2 Apr 2001 – 1 Apr 2005 ex-Ministry of Home Affairs
7 Shingo Haketa 1 Apr 2005 – 1 Jun 2012 ex-Ministry of Health
8 Noriyuki Kazaoka (ja) 1 Jun 2012 – ex-Ministry of Construction

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ The name is exactly the same as the ministry since ancient times, though it is tempting to artificially render them differently in English ("Imperial Household Agency" vs. "Ministry of the Imperial Household"). It should be noted that the Japanese were using the lunar date of "July 8, Meiji 2."
  2. ^ Kishimoto 1956 keeps calling it "Board of Ceremonies" instead of "Bureau" even after the name change.
  3. ^ In 1947, ahead of the new constitution the   Reprint 2002 ISBN 4-876-44081-6 13-ISBN 978-4-876-44081-8


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Imperial Household Agency: Organization
  2. ^  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ a b c d e f "History". Imperial Household Agency homepage. Retrieved Mar 2013.  沿革 (Enkaku)(Japanese)
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Wilson, Robert Arden (1978). "Genesis of the Meiji government in Japan, 1868–1871". Greenwood Press. p. 133.   13-ISBN 978-0-837-19091-4
  7. ^ Kishimoto, Hideo (1956). Japanese Religion in the Meiji Era (snippet). Ōbunsha. p. 59.  
  8. ^ Kishimoto 1956, p. 65, "Within a year, the Department of Religion and Education (kyobu sho) superseded the Shinto Ministry."
  9. ^ Kishimoto 1956, p. 69, "The actual directive which abolished the Shinto Ministry on April 21, 1872, read in part as follows: 'Let the purely formal functions be transferred to the Board of Ceremonies, while the Department of Religion and Education take over the duties ...'"
  10. ^ Thal, Sarah (2005). Rearranging the Landscape of the Gods: The Politics of a ... (snippet). University of Chicago Press. p. 157.   13-ISBN 978-0-226-79421-1
  11. ^ a b 薗田, 正觀 (Haseyama, Masami ) (1979). 宗敎法槪論 (Shūkyōhō gairon) (snippet). 河出書房新社. p. 235. 式部寮は太政官に属したが、十年九月宮内省に転じ、十七年十月式部寮は式部職に改められた。 
  12. ^ 大蔵省印刷局 (National Printing Bureau), ed. (1947-04-18). "法律" (NDL). 官報 (Kanpō "Official Bulletin") (6076).  (Text of Imperial Househol Office Law) Article 13 stipulates authority under premier.
  13. ^ The Future of Japan's Monarchy, Time Asia Magazine
  14. ^ Imperial family exposed to media speculation in 2004, Japan Policy and Politics, 10 Jan 2005
  15. ^ Crown prince back in Japan, will not meet press, Japan Policy and Politics, 24 May 2004
  16. ^ About a boy: Dynasty, Japan-style, The Independent on Sunday, 8 July 2007
  17. ^ Hudson, M. (1999). Ruins of Identity: Ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.
  18. ^ Oguma,E. (2002). A Genealogy of 'Japanese' Self-images (translated by David Askew). Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press.
  19. ^ Edwards, W. (2000). Contested access: The Imperial tombs in the postwar period. Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, 371–392.
  20. ^ Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne by Ben Hills, reviewed by Kevin Mcgue for Metropolis magazine


  • Shigeru, Yoshida and Hiroshi Nara. (2007). Shigeru: Last Meiji Man. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. 13-ISBN 978-0-7425-3932-7/10-ISBN 0-7425-3932-6; 13-ISBN 978-0-7425-3933-4/10-ISBN 0-7425-3933-4; OCLC 238440967

Further reading

  • Kokusai Kyōiku Jōhō Sentā. (1986). The Imperial Family of Japan. Tokyo: International Society for Educational Information. OCLC 24145536

External links

  • The Imperial Household Agency Website

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