Imperial Property (皇室財産)

"Imperial property" refers to the property of the Imperial family.

Ancient Times

Although much of the Imperial property of ancient times remains unknown, some remains as miyake (Imperial-controlled territory), mikuriya (manors and powerful shrines of the Imperial family), and so on. According to the "Nihonshoki" (the Chronicles of Japan), the first miyake was established in 3 B.C. After the ritsuryo system was introduced, those miyake came under the jurisdiction of the Oiryo (the Bureau of Palace Kitchens under the Ministry of the Imperial Household) and the Naizenshi (the Imperial Table Office), which removed them from immediate control of the Imperial family. During the Heian period, instead of miyake, they established chokushiden (imperial proprietorships and land) and chokushimaki or chokushiboku (mandate pastures, or Imperial pastures). Goin Palace also built private land to preserve the life of the Daijo Tenno (the Retired Emperor). After the establishment of a cloister government, a large amount of shoen (medieval manors) was under control of a retired emperor. Also because provinces under control of ingu (ex-emperors, ex-emperors who became monks, imperial ladies, grand empress dowagers, empress dowagers, empress consorts, and crown princes) were established, the retired emperor in power became a great lord of Shoen, running huge quantities of Imperial property, including Kokugaryo (territories governed by provincial government offices), estates of nyoin (close female relatives of the Emperor or women of comparable standing), estate of goganji (temples for the Imperial Family), and so on.

The Medieval Period

Following the Jokyu War, the Kamakura Bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) seized much of the Imperial family's estate and divided it among ryoto tetsuritsu (alternate accedence from two ancestries of Imperial families)--restitution was later made to Gotakakura-in. As a result, during the peaceful era of the Southern and Northern Dynasties established in the Meitoku treaty, most of the Imperial estate fell into the hands of the Fushiminomiya family, which was considered a direct descendant of Jimyoin-to line. Although Emperor Gokomatsu had fought against the Fushiminomiya family, aiming to deprive them of their shoryo (territory) and triggering a conflict with the Muromachi Bakufu, the conflict ultimately resulted in the extinction of the Gokomatsu line and the succession of the Fushiminomiya family to the Imperial throne (Emperor Gohanazono). Around this time, to distinguish the property from kubo goryo (Imperial property), the Muromachi bakufu began to call the acquired property "kinri goryo" or "koushitsu goryo." Between the period of peace between the Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Muromachi period, shoshiryo (the property of officials) was established, as well as regulations on storehouses of taxable products and kugonin (purveyors to the Imperial household), the income of which made up the deficit. However, in the Sengoku period (the period of Warring States), shoen, which were still Imperial property, were confiscated by local warlords and kokujin ryoshu (local samurai), which left the Imperial family without income, rendering them so impoverished that they couldn't hold a funeral for Emperor Gotsuchimikado for over a month after his death.

Early Modern Times

Nobunaga ODA and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI exchanged part of their shoryo for 7,000 koku of Imperial property. In 1601, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA secured another 10,000 koku as Imprial property. After that, the Edo bakufu offered 10,000 koku of shoryo in 1623 and 1705, ultimately securing 30,000 koku of Imperial property. Aside from that, the Edo bakufu procured income from silver jishi (land taxes under the ritsuryo system) in Kyoto--established in the period of the Toyotomi government--and a tax on tea (chayaku) in Ujitawara-cho, Uji city. Kuge (court nobles) who served the Imperial court in those places were paid living expenses in the form of territory that is said to have amounted to 100 thousand koku. However, all of this fell under the control of the Kyoto Gundai (the Kyoto deputy), who maintained shioki (public administration and administration of justice) over the territory. In1867, just before the Taisei Hokan (the transfer of power back to the Emperor), Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA attempted unsuccessfully to reestablish a connection with the Imperial Court through 230,000 koku of Imperial property. During the Boshin War, the Imperial Court confiscated 1,500,000 koku from the domains of the bakufu and the Sabaku-ha (supporters of the Shogun), incorporating all of it into Imperial property. This property became the financial base of the Meiji Government.

Imperial Property under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan

Under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, Imperial property was called "goryo" (Imperial property) or "goryochi" (Imperial estate) and was left outside of Imperial Diet control. However, since goryo as such had existed before the Constitution, Takayoshi KIDO, Sanetsune TOKUDAIJI, Nagazane MOTODA and others submitted a written opinion looking to improve imperial holdings, but most goryo was deeply linked with the formulation of the Constitution. Establishment of the National Diet and formulation of the Constitution in Japan had an aspect of compromise with the Freedom of Rights Movement, and as such, it became necessary to gain the approval of the Diet for the state budget. Tomomi IWAKURA, who disagreed with this, aimed to transfer a considerable portion of state property to Imperial property and block it from the Diet. In 1898, most government-owned forests were made Imperial forests, and a large supplement of state property was made into Imperial property. With a proposal from Masayoshi MATSUKATA, the Bank of Japan and Yokohama Specie Bank presented their state-owned shares to the Imperial family in 1884, as did Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha in 1887.

The administration of Imperial property was defined by the Imperial Property Act, which took the form of a Koshitsu-rei (the Imperial Families' Act), rather than a law. Goryo were separated into hereditary goryo and normal goryo, after which it was made illegal to acquire the former through any means but direct inheritance.

Imperial Property under the Constitution of Japan

Under the Constitution of Japan, Imperial property belongs to the State, and the expenses of the Imperial family fall under a budget that is voted upon in the Diet (Article 88). Goryochi were remade national forests, and other Imperial property was changed to state property on a large scale. Under Article 3 of the present National Property Act, state property was differentiated into administrative assets with intended purpose and "the assets for the Imperial family." State property under this act does not include general movable property, but is limited to real estate and its appurtenant, ships and aircraft, stocks and bonds, and so on.

Under Article 8 of the Constitution of Japan, any property that may be transferred or gifted to the Imperial family requires a passing vote in the Diet. In practice, however, rather than voting on each individual change in property, it is stipulated that no vote is necessary for private acts of buying and selling, foreign currency exchange, or hereditary gifts, given that the total amount stays within the yearly limit established in the Imperial House Economy Act. The Imperial House Economy Act requires a passing vote in the Diet for any single amount or total amount in a year that exceeds the limit established in Section 13, Paragraph 2 of the National Property Act. The limit established in the National Property Act is more expensive than the limit stipulated by the Imperial House Economy Act.

Under Article 7 of the Imperial House Economy Act, historic property handed down with the Imperial Throne, such as three sacred imperial treasures, must be handed down to the Crown Prince along with the Imperial Throne.

[Original Japanese]