Kizokuin (Japans House of Peers) (貴族院 (日本))

The Kizokuin was the upper house of the Imperial Diet from 1890 to 1947 under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. It had equal standing with the House of Representatives (but the national budget had to be presented to the House of Representatives first).

The Kizokuin was not made up of publicly elected officials, but of councilors from the Imperial family, members of the peerage, and Chokuningiin (appointees of the emperor); it was never dissolved and most of the councilors had life tenure. There was also a system for yushikisha (people well-informed about rules of ceremonies and rituals) to become councilors appointed by the Emperor,so for better or worse, there was no criticism towards the Kizokuin for being "a carbon copy of the House of Representatives."


The scope of authority of each House and councilor was stated in the Diet Law, Kizokuin Rei (the ordinance of Kizokuin) (Imperial Edict Number 11, 1888) and other legislations.

In principle, the term for councilors was seven years but the Imperial family, the princes and marquis councilors from the peerage, and Chokusen Councilors (see below) from the Chokunin Councilors had life tenure. Count, viscount and baron councilors were elected from their peerage by men of the same rank.

The salaries of the councilors were determined by Diet Law.
It was 7,500 JPY for the chairman, 4,500 JPY for the deputy chairman and 3,000 JPY for the rest of the councilors (this did not change from the amendment of the law in 1920 until it was abolished in 1947 and the salary for the councilors of the House of Representatives was the same.)

The number of councilors fluctuated between 250 and 400 from the first ordinary Diet session in 1890 and the ninety-second ordinary Diet session in 1946. The total number of councilors at the time of the closing of the ninety-second ordinary Diet session was 373.


Imperial Family Councilors

The crown prince and his eldest son from the age of 18, and other princes of the imperial bloodline over the age of 20 automatically became councilors. There was no limit to the numbers and they did not receive any salary.

Article 4 of Kizokuin Kisoku (the rules of Kizokuin) states "The seats for the imperial family councilors should be right at the front and their order of seating should follow their hierarchy in the palace." To avoid having imperial family members involved in political conflict, although they participated in ceremonies, they did not routinely attend the Diet and their appearance in the Diet was extremely rare in the history of the Imperial Diet. Imperial family members were generally military men and their attendance was not desirable as military men were not supposed to be involved with politics.

Peerage Councilors

The peerage councilors were selected from their peerage. Depending on their rank, there were different election methods, different tenures and other conditions. Korean peerage were supposed to be treated the same as Japanese peerage, as stated in Article 5 of the ordinance of Korean peerage, but they did not have the same criteria to become a peerage councilor in Japan and ranked as the Chokunin Councilors in Kizokuin.

Prince and Marquis Councilors

When princes and marquis reached 25 years of age, they automatically became councilors. There was no limit to the number and they did not receive any salary.

After the amendment of the ordinance of Kizokuin (Imperial Edict number 174) in 1925, the age was raised to 30 years. By receiving Imperial permission, they were able to leave their position and return to it later with an Imperial order.

If prince and marquis councilors were military men, it was customary practice for them not to attend.

Count, Viscount and Baron Councilors
They were elected by men of the same rank when they reached 25 years of age. The election method was stated in Kizokuin rules for count, viscount and baron councilors' internal election for Kizokuin (Imperial Edict number 78, 1889). The first Kizokuin count, viscount and baron councilors' internal election was conducted on July 10, 1890.

When the rules were established, the numbers of the count, viscount and baron councilors were not to exceed one fifth of the total numbers of the men with that rank (At the first Imperial Diet, there were 14 counts, 70 viscounts and 20 barons; at the twenty-first Imperial Diet, there were 17 counts, 70 viscounts and 56 barons.)

After the amendment of the ordinance of Kizokuin (Imperial Edict number 58) in 1905, the numbers were set to be a total of 143 for all count, viscount and baron councilors and the numbers from each rank were to be decided in proportion to the numbers with the same rank. The amendment was a measure to control the number of councilors when the number of peerage (new peers and those who became peers in recognition of their military service) increased rapidly after the Japanese-Sino war and Japanese-Russo war.

After the amendment of the ordinance of Kizokuin (Imperial Edict number 92) in 1909, the numbers were set to 17 counts, 70 viscounts and 63 barons.

After the amendment of the ordinance of Kizokuin (Imperial Edict number 22) in 1918, the numbers were increased to 20 counts, 73 viscounts and 73 barons.

After the amendment of the ordinance of Kizokuin (Imperial Edict number 174) in 1925, the minimum age was raised to 30 and the numbers were set to 150 (18 counts, 66 viscounts and 66 barons). There was no change after that until the abolition of Kizokuin.

Chokunin Councilors

Chokusen Councilors

Chokusen Councilors were appointed by the Emperor, in consultation with the Cabinet, from men over 30 years of age with a history of significant contribution to the country or who were very knowledgeable.

When the Imperial Diet was first established, 61 of the Chokusen Councilors were selected (27 Genroin gikan [councilors of the Chamber of Elders or Senate], 10 government officials from each ministry, nine ordinary citizens, six representatives from The Japan Imperial Academy, six imperial court councilors and three members from the Cabinet Legislation Bureau).

At first, the number of the Chokusen Councilors was to be less than the total number of the peerage councilors (this rule was abolished in 1925). After 1905, the maximum number was set as 125.

Imperial Academy Councilors
The position was newly created in 1925. The councilors were internally selected from male members of the Imperial Academy who were 30 years of age or older. The number was set to be four (there were two divisions in the Imperial Academy, so two from each division were selected). The election method and other rules were stated in Kizokuin Rules of the internal selection of the Imperial Academy councilors (Imperial Edict Number 233, 1925).

High Taxpayer Councilors

These councilors were internally selected and were 30 years of age, or older, taxpayers who paid a large amount of tax for their properties or their industrial or commercial businesses. The election method and other rules were stated in Kizokuin Rules for the internal selection of councilors of High Taxpayers (Imperial Edict Number 79).

Of the 15 direct national taxpayers per prefecture, one was elected as a High Taxpayer Councilor. There were 47 prefectures but because Hokkaido and Okinawa were exempt, the fixed number of the councilors was 45. In 1918, Hokkaido and Okinawa were included and in 1925, it was one per 100 or two per 200 High Taxpayers from each prefecture to make the maximum number of them of 66. In 1944, they decided to select one from Sakhalin to make the number to 67, but because of the loss of Sakhalin after the war, the election never took place.

Korean and Taiwanese Chokusen Councilors

The Emperor appointed the councilors from men of reputation, of 30 years of age or older and who were living in Korea and Taiwan. The fixed number of the councilors was 10.

This system was established in 1945 but was abolished in 1946 when Japan lost the sovereignity of Korea and Taiwan.

Korean Councilors were Chiho YUN, 金明濬, Sangyong HAN, Count 宋鍾憲 (Korean peerage), 朴相駿, Jonho LEE, Jungyang PAK and Viscount Kiyong YI (Korean peerage); and Taiwanese Chokusen councilors were Bing XU, Mingsan CHIEN and Xiantong LIN. Viscount Deogyeong YUN (Korean peerage), Marquis Yonghyo PAK (Korean peerage) and Xianrong GU (Taiwanese) became Kizokuin councilors as Chokusen councilors.


Hirobumi ITO realized that there was a need for heredity of the nobility (peerage) supporting the Emperor to keep the monarchy focused on the Emperor. So, in contrast to the House of Representatives, Kizokuin placed the hereditary peers in the center of the House. However, Togama KONO insisted on internal elections within the peerage, rather than the position of the councilors being heredity; but Ito rejected it by saying "Removing hereditary peerage councilors from Kizokuin means abolishing the system of the hereditary peers."

The drafting of laws and ordinances related to Kizokuin was done by Kentaro KANEKO. Kaneko called Kizokuin "Genroin" (the Chamber of Elders) initially but Ito disagreed with Kaneko because the Chambers of Elders overseas were selected by election and not in the same way as that of Japan; as a result, it was decided to call it as "Kizokuin" (The House of Peers). This positively means the House was a peerage-centered house and the councilors were expected to adopt the principles of the monarchy and support the Emperor in the fight against democracy.
Also, at that time, Ito thought that a political party cabinet was not acceptable because it meant that the sovereign power (national structure) would in effect shift from the Emperor to a political party (yet Ito established the Rikken Seiyukai Party later on.)
So Kizokuin was placed as the oppositional power against the House of Representatives. Before the World Wars, legislation - which included the recognition of women's suffrage, allowing labor unions to set-ups and expanding the Imperial University - was taken to the Diet and passed by the House of Representatives but never passed by Kizokuin.

However, Kizokuin had a degree of independence from the Hanbatsu-dominated government and after fighting its status against the House of Representatives, Kizokuin sometimes made it difficult for the Hanbatsu government to maintain its power.. Yet, when the government compromised with political parties, Kizokuin stood against the government because of this. In 1900, Kizokuin voted against Ito's tax increase proposal using the partisan interests of Seiyukai Party as the reason.
A troubled Ito asked the Meiji Emperor for an Ordinance to require Kizokuin to co-operate on pending the legislation and forced them to accept it (they had no option but to follow the Emperor's Ordinances.)
So while the Kizokuin were conservative, they were simply a pawn of the Hanbatsu government.

In the Taisho Democracy period, there was a debate about reforming or abolishing the Kizokuin, so Takaaki KATO's Cabinet made some amendments. They could not, however, touch the fundamental authority of Kizokuin.

After the War, Kizokuin paticipated in deliberations on the Constitution of Japan. Toward the end, after many Kizokuin councilors were removed from Kizokuin - as well as by general purges - the numbers of peerage councilors recovered but Kizokuin lost its influence and this eventually led to its abolition. Within the Diet, Chokunin Councilors - who were mainly scholars - increased their power.

At the discussion on the Constitution of Japan, which eventually meant the loss of their existence, Kizokuin were worried that the Allies might promote abolishing the Emperor system and to counter this, most of the councilors reluctantly agreed with the Constitution. An amendment to strengthen the power of the Emperor was presented and it was rumored that behind-the-scenes work for the General Headquarters (GHQ) had been completed but the proposal was denied.

In 1947, by the abolition of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan and enforcement of the Constitution of Japan, Kizokuin and the peerage system was abolished. The venue for Kizokuin to meet was newly established but was taken over by the House of Councilors. Most ex-Kizokuin councilors insisted that agreeing to the Constitution had been just for convienience and became advocates for the revision of the Constitution of Japan.

Innaikai Groups (within-the-House groups)

Because they were the defenders of the party government by the House of Representatives and their role in supporting national sovereignty, they never set up a political party within Kizokuin and members who joined a party had to quit the Kizokuin councilor's position based on unwritten rules. Ex-Kizokuin councilors were, therefore, mostly independent (although there were some examples where they were working as an indenepdent councilor within Kizokuin while holding a registration within a political party). However, as a place to meet others, exchange information and to continue congressional activities, some Innai groups were set up.

From the final years of the Taisho era to the early years of the Showa era when party government was mature, some of these groups had connections with political parties within the House of Representatives and strengthened the influence of the political party. As most Kizokuin councilors did not need to worry about re-election, the bond between the members within the Innai groups was weak. In most groups, they advocate neutrality and the principle of "one party for one person" and did not place restrictions on party debate. There was, therefore a clear difference between the Innai groups and the political parties within the House of Representatives.

The main Innai groups were as follows.

Kayokai (Tuesday) Parliamentary Group

This was a group of princes and marquis councilors. It was only a small group but with lifetime members and extensive authority. Members were Iesato TOKUGAWA (fourth chairman), Fumimaro KONOE (fifth chairman), Kuniyuki TOKUGAWA (seventh chairman), Iemasa TOKUGAWA (eighth chairman), etc.

Kenkyukai Group (Study Group) (Kizokuin)

The group was formed around the Shoyukai, the group for internal selection of viscount councilors and with large numbers of count and viscount councilors as members, it was for a long time the most powerful group of the Innai groups of Kizokuin. Later on, the group produced many Chokusen councilors with a bureaucratic background. Yorinaga MATSUDAIRA (sixth chairman) was a member.

Koseikai Group

The group was formed with baron councilors as its main members in 1919.

Sawakai Group

Tosuke HIRATA and others played a central role in forming the party with Chokusen councilors with a bureaucratic background. They gathered councilors with connection to the line of Aritomo YAMAGATA and the group became stronghold of bureaucracy and anti-political party system.

Koyukurabu Group

Forming this group was the idea of Takashi HARA and others with Chokusen councilors with a bureaucratic background. They gathered councilors who had great understanding of party government and with connection to the lines of Hirobumi ITO and Kinmochi SAIONJI. It became practically a supporting group of Seiyukai.

Douseikai Group

The group succeeded the Doyokai group and its main members were Chokusen councilors with a bureaucratic background. Most councilors were pro-Minsei Party and it acted as a supporting group for the Minsei Party (civil administration party).

Sanyokai (three-days-a-week) Group

Atsumaro KONOE, the president of Kizokuin was a member of this group.

Dowakai Group

The group succeeded the Sawakai group and its main members were ex-Sawakai and independent councilors. The group was strongly anti-Kenkyukai group and anti-Seiyukai party, and acted as a supporting group for the Minsei Party together with Doseikai group.

Mushozokukurabu Group

The group was formed on April 30, 1941 and later on, Sigenori TOGO and Kazumi KOBAYASHI also joined the group. The main members were Chokusen councilors including Koki HIROTA and Fumio GOTO.

By July 1920, the numbers of councilors in each group were: 143 Kenkyukai, 65 Koseikai, 48 Sawakai, 44 Koyukurabu, 30 Doseikai, 67 independent - a total of 397.

In March 1947 when the last session of Imperial Diet was finished, the numbers of councilors of each group were: 142 Kenkyukai, 64 Koseikai, 41 Koyukurabu, 33 Doseikai, 32 Kayokai, 30 Dowakai, 22 Mushozokukurabu, 8 independent - a total of 373 (but one of the Koyukaikurabu member died in April).

For the House of Councilors which took over the Kizokuin to make up the Diet after the wars, many old members of Kizokuin ran and initially won the elections. Later they formed Ryokufukai, an Innai group, with an emphasis on neutrality and the group once had great power in the national political scene as the largest group within the House. However, councilors in these groups were absorbed into political parties (mostly conservative parties such as the Liberal Democratic Party).

Selection of the Prime Ministers

Under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, the prime minister was not required to be a member of the Diet. Takashi HARA was the first serving councilor of the House of Representatives who became the Prime Ministor and out of 33 Prime Ministers under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, there were only two more such cases: Osachi HAMAGUCHI and Tsuyoshi INUKAI.

On the other hand, serving Kizokuin councilors who became the Prime Ministers were Hirobumi ITO, Masayoshi MATSUKATA, Shigenobu OKUMA, Taro KATSURA, Kinmochi SAIONJI, Kirekiyo TAKAHASHI, Keigo KIYOURA, Takaaki KATO, Reijiro WAKATSUKI, Fumimaro KONOE, Prince Higashikuninomiya Naruhiko, Kijuro SHIDEHARA, Shigeru YOSHIDA and more. Under the current constitution of Japan, all the Prime Ministers have been from the House of Representatives.

[Original Japanese]