The Former Imperial Family (旧皇族)
The former Imperial Family is the colloquial term of Imperial Family members who ceased to be a member of the Imperial Family in 1947, consisted of 51 members of 11 Miyake (house of an imperial prince) and their male descendants. They are also called the former Miyake.
Strictly speaking, male descendants who were born after their parents left the Imperial Family, should have been called 'male descendants of the former Imperial Family,' since they were not included as Imperial Family members in the past, however they were generally called as a whole, 'the former Imperial Family.'
According to Tsuneyasu TAKEDA the Imperial Household Agency defines emperors, empresses, princess from out of 51 Imperial members of 11 Miyake who ceased to be members of the Imperial Family in 1947, as 'descendants of the former Imperial Family,' and the head of the Miyake were called 'the former Imperial Family.'
All the former Imperial Family members were the male descendants of the fourth Fushiminomiya Imperial Prince Sadatsune, who was the head of the successive Imperial hereditary family since the Muromachi period, and were also descendants of the third Emperor, Emperor Suko of the Northern Court during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts. The former 11 houses of Miyake originated from Fushiminomiya family, the children of the nineteenth Fushiminomiya Imperial Prince Sadayoshi and the twentieth Imperial Prince Kuniie, left the Fushiminomiya family and made branch families during the period before and after the Meiji Restoration. But most of those families were considered to last for just one generation starting from the head of the family, and they were not considered as hereditary families.
The Fushiminomiya family succeeded to the throne from generation to generation since Imperial Prince Sadatsune and of course this influenced their branch families however, it must be noted that the Fushiminomiya family's right to succeed the throne was not just due to the fact they had a close blood line to the main family. It is commonly known that other hereditary Imperial Families such as; Katsuranomiya, Arisugawanomiya, Kaninnomiya, and including Fushiminomiya, were able to succeed to positions of Imperial princes and maintain the Imperial succession, because they enjoyed the special privilege of the family, not because they had close blood lines to the main family. The successive head of the family or the successors to the family created fictitious relationships to emperors and retired emperors of each era, by being adopted as their children, then they were able to receive title of Imperial Prince by the Imperial Order which secured their position to succeed to the Imperial throne. Also, Cloistered Imperial Princes and Priestly Imperial Princes who entered a monzeki temple (a high-ranking temple where members of the Imperial Family and nobility entered the priesthood) were supposed to be given the title of Imperial Prince as an adopted child of the Emperor. This was done to ensure that former priests of a monzeki temple were granted the honor befitting their rank even after they returned to secular life as a result of the movement to abolish Buddhism in the early Meiji period, and because of this, one-generation Miyake (house of an imperial prince) sprung up one after another around the time of the Meiji Restoration.
After Emperor Shoko died without having any children to succeed his position, the former Imperial family was succeeded by Imperial Prince Sadatsune's older brother, Prince Hikohito, (the hundred and second Emperor Gohanazono) since the family was not succeeded by the original Imperial blood line, there was no direct continuity of the blood line from male side of the Imperial Family. However the family was still succeeded by male descendants of Emperor Jinmu, the main condition for Imperial succession, and the five members of four Miyake married to the Princess of Emperor Meiji or Emperor Showa, these Imperial members are close relatives on female side of the Imperial Family. Emperor Showa's Empress, Empress Kojun, was also from the Kuninomiya family.
The structure of eleven families of the former Imperial family
Fushiminomiya (the descendants of Fushiminomiya Imperial Prince Sadanaru)
Kaninnomiya (the descendants of Kaninnomiya Imperial Prince Kotohito, discontinued)
Kuninomiya (the descendants of Kuninomiya Imperial Prince Asahiko)
Yamashinanomiya (the descendants of Yamashinanomiya Imperial Prince Akira, discontinued)
Kitashirakawanomiya (the descendants of Kitashirakawanomiya Imperial Prince Yoshihisa)
Nashimotonomiya (Although Nashimotonomiya Prince Morimasa only had daughters, after Prince Morimasa died, his mistress Itsuko NASHIMOTO adopted the third son of Norihiko NASHIMOTO) (the former Count Norihiko Tatsuta)
Kayanomiya (the descendants of Kayanomiya Prince Kuninori, main male descendant is Masanori KAYA)
Higashifushiminomiya (the mistress of Higashifushiminomiya Imperial Prince Yorihito, (the wife of Imperial Prince Yorihito) Kaneko
Empress Kojun's younger brother, Jigo HIGASHIFUSHIMI (the former Prince Kunihide, the former Count Kunihide HIGASHIFUSHIMI) succeeded the ritual of the family)
Asakanomiya (the descendants of Asakanomiya Prince Yasuhiko)
Takedanomiya (the descendants of Takedanomiya Prince Tsunehisa)
Tsunetada TAKEDA and Tsunekazu TAKEDA's successive family continued to maintain the male blood line.)
Higashikuninomiya (the descendants of Higashikuninomiya Prince Naruhiko)
(the order to establish a Miyake
Please also refer to the following brief genealogy map.)
Close relationship to the current Imperial Family
House where Empress Kojun was born (the family line of the present emperor's older brother in law)
The Kuni family
The Kuni family is related to the Emperor's family through Empress Kojun, this was because the Empress made a bridal entry into the Imperial Palace, there was no direct male blood line from the Imperial Family in the successors of the Kuni family since Emperor Meiji.
The family of Emperor Showa's son in law (the family line of the current Emperor's older brother in law)
The Higashikuni family
The Higashikuni family is also related to the Emperor's family through Emperor Meiji's Princess, sometimes comments are heard; 'the family who's blood line is the closest to the Imperial Family.'
The family of Emperor Meiji's son-in-law (the family line of the present Emperor's elder brother-in-law)
The Kitashirakawa family
The Takeda family
The Asaka family
The Higashikuni family
As mentioned before, the Higashikuni family is also related to Imperial Family through Emperor Showa's Princess.
How the ceasing of membership in the Imperial Family started
After the War on October 14, 1947, 51 family members of 11 Miyake ceased being members of the Imperial Family since it was hard for the nation to maintain the existing scale of Imperial Families financially, this was because Imperial assets did not belong to the national treasury any longer after receiving the order from the General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. According to "Showa Zaiseishi" (The Financial History of Showa), the financial scale of the Imperial Family before and after the War was presumed to be about twenty five million yen. Of this twenty five million yen, four million five hundred thousand yen was paid out of the government's general account. This amount, four million five hundred thousand, was set for expenditures from 1910 to 1947, the difference due to the expansion of the financial scale afterwards was managed out of individual Imperial financial assets such as Mountains and forests, securities, and agricultural land. After the postwar reform, it became impossible for the Imperial Family to manage their finances, increasing expenses several times could not have been practically accepted, especially under the tight financial situation just after the War. It was a natural consequence as was mentioned later, since the government was not keen on letting the scale of expenses for the Imperial family increase unlimitedly.
The concept of the ceasing to be a Imperial Family member was not brought about by the General Headquarters, as mentioned in ' The reinforcement regulations on ceasing to be a member of the Imperial Family' which was explained later, we must understand the concept as an extended policy towards the Imperial Family, which was applied to them since the Meiji period. Higashikuni Imperial Prince Naruhiko was known for often saying since he was young that he wished to leave his position in the Imperial Family, he also asked Emperor Showa to approve him ceasing to be a member of the Imperial Family, he made his intention clear just after he resigned as Prime Minister in 1945, he also mentioned to it to the media and asked other Imperial members to follow him, and once the Department of the Imperial Household had to make sudden announcement to deny it. Kayanomiya Prince Tsunenori also asked the Emperor to approve him ceasing to be a member of the Imperial Family.
Of course Emperor Showa and some Imperial Family members were against this movement, there was an idea to keep Miyake such as the Kuninomiya family which was the original family Empress Kojun was from, and the Higashikuninomiya family, to which Emperor Showa's first Prince, Shigeko HIGASHIKUNI married into, but finally three families were kept, they were Emperor Showa's younger brother's family, Chichibunomiya, Takamatsunomiya, Mikasanomiya, and the other 11 Miyake were all to cease being members of the Imperial Family.
51 members of 11 Miyake left in accordance with the current Imperial Family Law, Clause 11, 'Due to Imperial member's will or due to the decision of the Imperial Household Council', or Clause 14 of the same law, 'Due to Imperial member's will' or Clause 13, 'the Imperial Princes or their Princesses or other lineal descendants and their Empresses should leave their position as Imperial members, excluding female members who married into other Imperial Families or their lineal descendants.'
Enforcement regulations covering Imperial member demotions from nobility to subject' and the former Imperial Family
The regulation concerning eternal Imperial membership of the former Imperial House Law issued on February 11, 1889 was in fact abolished when the same Law was greatly revised in 1907, it was decided that only an Imperial Prince (up to great-great-grandchild) can keep his position as an Imperial member.
According to Clause 1, enlarged revision of this Law, it states a Prince can be demoted from nobility to subject upon receiving the emperor's order or by receiving a surname by invocation. Demotion from nobility to subject was recommended, however, this was just a possible option for an Imperial member, it was not a definite option.
There was just one example of a Prince being demoted from nobility to subject.
Then 'within the regulation of the former Imperial House Law,' issued on May 19, 1920, the concept of this Law was made even more drastic, as said in regulation No.1,
According to Imperial Family Law, expanded regulation Article No.1 issued by the Emperor February 11, 1907, and Article No. 25 of the regulation of Imperial rank, for the Princes of the descendants of a great-great grandchild of the Imperial Family, if the Prince does not appeal entreat, they will be forced to become nobles by receiving surnames by the Emperor's order excluding eldest son's grandchildren's line up to four generations.
It was clearly mentioned that any Prince who did not submit a petition would be demoted from a noble to a commoner (clause 25 of the regulations concerning Imperial rank stated that only Princes who were older than fifteen years old could submit a petition).
Great-great grand children of the Imperial Family would still be called members of the Imperial Family, other descendants were to be demoted from nobility to subject, except for the eldest son who will succeed to the Miyake, and in this case four generations after a great-great grandchild of the Imperial Family, would still be called members of the Imperial Family, after that, the descendants were to be demoted from nobility to subject. The Fushiminomiya line of the Imperial Family were not included under this regulation, it was decided to add fictitious Imperial Princes to great-great grandchild of the Imperial Family, and to keep four generations (great-great grand child) of Imperial Princes in the ranks of the Imperial Family.
Regarding the former Imperial Family, the purpose of the regulation was to prevent increasing the numbers of Miyake and prevent Imperial Family members spreading from among the Imperial Prince's descendants and to let it die out in the future accordingly, not to keep the Imperial succession from the Fushiminomiya line. It was expressed in No.1 of the regulation as a purpose to limit the range of Imperial Family to a narrower definition, (it was applied in the same way to the direct descendants of Emperor Taisho) it was apparent that the regulation for an Imperial Prince's descendants was an exception as it was mentioned in an additional rule. The regulation was to set the process of how descendants of the great-great grandchildren of the Imperial Family were to be demoted from nobility to subject, practically and automatically one after another, which was not covered in the expanded revised regulation.
By the way, when the regulation was strictly applied, there were only a limited number of people who were able to keep their position as members of the Imperial Family, mentioned in the following short genealogical table.
(the person with * mark was a person who were currently alive as of December 2006.)
Of course there was an argument against having Imperial Family members demotion from nobility to subject, (however, there were some examples of people receiving surnames from the Imperial Prince or the Emperor and were forced to be demoted to subjects since the Dynasty period), at the discussion of the Privy Council that was consulted about the regulation to make a decision, the government decided to apply the regulation based on individual situations instead of applying the rule evenly or automatically across the board. The Privy Council adopted a motion for this regulation unanimously after receiving above reply. Next, in the consultation of the Imperial meeting, it was expected that some Imperial members would be against the regulation, the government took advantage of Imperial Meeting regulations, which stated that members of the Imperial meeting are not allowed to vote in terms of 'proceedings related to their own benefit,' and the chairman (Fushiminomiya Imperial Prince Sadanaru at that time) let the proceedings pass through the Imperial meeting without taking vote.
Since the matters in relation to Imperial rank was under Emperor Taikenjiko's control (Emperor has right to control), even if this regulation existed, it was possible for the Emperor to make an exception if he wished to do so. However, the government policy to halt the increasing numbers of Imperial members since 1907, was established after reflecting on the experience of each new Miyake established before and after the Meiji Restoration, that were different from the 'four Imperial Prince families' that were not originally planned as hereditary families, they gradually became the permanent Imperial Family by the order of the Emperor, since there was no shortage of Miyake, it is hard to think that there was a case when Emperor had to make an exception by using the Emperor's Taiken (Emperor's right). In fact, there were 12 examples of Imperial members demoted from nobility to subject twenty six years after the regulation was issued and before it was abolished in 1946, in each case a Prince who falls under the regulation, voluntary appealed to avoid being forced to become nobility on the Emperor's order. Prince Morihiro, who married to Emperor Showa's Princess, was not treated any different, regarding his title of Imperial Prince, etc. The regulation was considered to be obeyed strictly since there was a traditional practice established whereby the first Prince who became nobility from Miyake was to become marquis (Marquis Kacho and so on), and after the second Prince, they started using count as a title (Count Higashifushimi and so on).
This regulation was the subject most talked about during discussions of Imperial succession during the Heisei period. Because once this regulation is put into practice, if some former Imperial Families, still ranking as Imperial members, have a male successor who could have become a successor to the throne from the Miyake, this would possibly prevent a crisis of discontinuity in Imperial succession.
Former Imperial Family after being demoted from nobility to commoner. Their surname 'Miya' of the title Miyago was removed from their original name, and they started a new life as a subject. Most of them lost a large part of their assets in taxes and suffered financial difficulties for a long time; some, however, managed to keep hold of some of their assets and so were able to maintain their previous standard of living, others achieved success by starting their own business, while still others found employment in occupations related to the Imperial Family, the former nobility, or Shintoism. The fates of these former members of the Imperial Family varied thereafter. The fates of these former members of the Imperial Family varied thereafter. There were some who were accused of scandals and they were reported in the newspapers. Most of the former members of the Imperial Family maintained a quiet life by avoiding public attention; there were some, however, who appeared in the media, such as Tsuneyasu TAKEDA who wrote books and gave public lectures. The name "Prince Hotel" was derived from a place on some land that used to belong to the Imperial Family.
Even after some people were demoted to subject, they were still related to Imperial Family, (some people are no longer part of the Imperial Family, but are still relatives to the emperor under civil law), they are members of Kikuei Shinbokukai, a friendship group that Imperial relatives belong to, and continue to socialize with the Imperial Family. Part of the Imperial Family members who passed away, such as Kuninomiya Prince Asaakira (Empress Kojun's brother) and Shigeko HIGASHIKUNI was buried in Toshimagaoka Graveyard as an exception.
Famous people of the former Imperial Family
Higashikuninomiya Prince Naruhiko (the 43rd Prime Minister
He also appeared on the society pages of newspapers as Naruhito HIGASHIKUNI after he left the Imperial Family.)
Toshihiko TARAMA (he moved to Brazil and runs a coffee plantation).
Tsuneyoshi TAKEDA (President of the Japanese Olympic Committee, and President of Japan Equestrian Federation)
Tsunekazu TAKEDA (President of the Japanese Olympic Committee)
Tsuneyasu TAKEDA (critic, lecturer in the graduate school at Keio University)
*Above two people and Masanori KAYA, who is mentioned later, were born after their family left the Imperial Family, strictly speaking, they were 'male descendants of the former Imperial Family.'
Masanori KAYA (current First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in Denmark)
Kuniaki KUNI (the President of the Association of Shinto Shrines, the Chief Priest of Ise-jingu Shrine)
Michihisa KITASHIRAKAWA (the chief priest of Ise-jingu Shrine, Princess Hatsuko was the first candidate of the list of the current Emperor's Empress)
The usage of a former Imperial Palace and the vacant land where the Palace used to be. Asakanomiya Palace: It exists in Shiroganedai and currently opened to the public as the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.
Kayanomiya Palace: This place no longer exists. Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery is located in Sanbancho where a palace use to be.
Kaninnomiya Palace: This place no longer exists. There is the official residence of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the official residence of the President of the House of Councilors in Nagatacho where a palace used to stand.
Kitashirakawanomiya Palace: This place no longer exists. There is a (Grand) Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Takanawa where a palace used to be.
Kuninomiya Palace: Part of a Palace (Otsune Palace) remains as the Kuni house in the campus of University of the Sacred Heart in Shibuya.
Takedanomiya Palace: This place exists as a distinguished guest house in the (Grand) Takanawa Prince Hotel.
Nashimotono Miya Palace: This place no longer exists. There is a Children's hall of Tokyo in Shibuya where a palace used to be.
Higashikuninomiya Palace: It was burnt down in a terrorist attack on the day when the War ended. The Tokyo Pacific Hotel stands in Takanawa where a palace used to be.
Higashifushiminomiya Palace: This place still exists in Shibuya. The current Hitachinomiya residence.
Fushiminomiya Residence: This place no longer exists. Hotel New Otani Tokyo in Kioi-cho Town stands where a residence used to be.
Yamashinanomiya residence: This place no longer exists. The Kudan dormitory of the member of the House of Representatives in Fujimi-cho Town stands where a residence used to be.
The issue of former Imperial Family members returning to the Imperial Family
There were no male babies born, but nine girls were born in forty one years between 1965, when Akishinonomiya Imperial Prince Fumihito was born, and 2006, when Imperial Prince Hisahito was born. However, according to current Imperial Family Law, only male successors can succeed to the Imperial throne. Because of this, it was presumed that there will be no one to succeed to the throne in the near future. One of the solutions suggested was to establish a new Imperial Family from a former Imperial Family and appoint a successor to the throne, however it has not been greatly supported by public opinion.
There is further discussion excepted in the future. (Please refer to the chapter on 'the issue of the Imperial succession' - Heisei)
Under Imperial House Law during the Meiji period, it was not allowed for subjects who once left the Imperial Family to return to the Imperial Family since it was considered to 'confuse the moral of sovereignty and subjects,' but there were some examples where the Emperor's family changed to the Imperial Family during the Kamakura period. Examples of this include Imperial Prince Koreyasu (Emperor Gosaga's grandchild; also known as Prince Koreyasu or MINAMOTO no Koreyasu), Imperial Prince Hisanaga (Emperor Gofukakusa's grandchild), and Iwakuranomiya Imperial Prince Tadafusa (Emperor Juntoku's great grandchild). Given that Imperial Prince Koreyasu received the title of Imperial Prince even after having been demoted to the rank of commoner and Imperial Prince Tadafusa was made an Imperial Prince by Imperial decree despite having been born a commoner, it is not impossible for male former members of the Imperial Family to return to the Imperial Family if precedent is adhered to.