Eiten (栄典)

Eiten (honor) is a generic term for treatment, positions and titles that the nation gives as a commendation to a person who has rendered distinguished service to the nation and the public. Eiten also refers to its system. Usually, a commendation is given to a person when his/her honor is certified by the nation, and in some cases, privileges and special treatment appertain to the commendation, like Ikai (Court rank) or peerage of the medieval period. At a diplomatic ceremony between nations, the seat arrangement was determined depending on whether the person has a decoration or a peerage, and what grade he/she was at. In Japan before the Second World War, 10 ranks and 79 kinds were set as in-palace seat ranks defined in the Imperial Ceremony Ordinance.

Eiten in Japan

Japanese Eiten system in modern times mainly included Ikai, decorations and peerages, but in some cases, it also included the following: special posts, such as Jako no ma shiko (emperor's personal attendant in the Jako room), Kinkei-no-ma shiko (Kinkei Hall attendant) and an imperial court councilor; the preference to veteran statesmen called Genro (elder statesman); the courteous reception of the previous post given to a person who used to be a prime minister or a Chairman of the Privy Council; an Emperor's cup (prize cup) based on a decoration; and the imperial rescript and the state funeral for a minister who especially had a great achievement. The conferment of Eiten was one of the important authorities of the Emperor, and all Eitan were conferred by the Emperor as a formality.. Even the lower rank like Kun hachito (the 8th Order of Merit) whose Kunki (decoration diploma) does not have the name of the Emperor in it, was described to be "conferred by the Emperor." The Constitution of the Empire of Japan stipulates this Emperor's sovereign authority to award honors as one of the Emperor's powers, while the Constitution of Japan also stipulates it as one of the Emperor's constitutional functions. Although the Emperor is not involved, the People's Honor Award and the Prime Minister's Award established in 1977 are also considered as one of Eiten.

The decoration system in Japan was started when 賞牌従軍牌制定ノ件 (the establishment of the prize-medal and war-medal system)(Dajokan fukoku [the proclamation by the Grand Council of State] No.54)was established on April 10, 1875. The decoration established at that time became the base of the current Kyokujitsusho (The Order of the Rising Sun).

The Order of the Chrysanthemum was established in 1876.

In the Ordinance of Medals (Dajokan fukoku No. 63) issued in December 1881, the Medal with Red Ribbon, the Medal with Green Ribbon and the Medal with Blue Ribbon were established, and the conferment of medals was started.

In 1888, the Order of the Sacred Treasure and the Orders of the Precious Crown were established.

In 1890, the decoration only for military personnel, Kinshi kunsho (the Order of the Golden Kite) was established. Afterward, more kinds of medals were added.

In 1937, the conferment of Bunka Kunsho (the Order of Culture) was started.

With the end of World War II, the bestowal of an order for survivors was once suspended, but was resumed in 1964.

When the decoration system was thoroughly revised in 2003, the grading with number was abolished and the decoration standard was also reviewed. During this discussion, the abolishment of the medal system, which had been criticized for overlapping with the decoration system, was considered but postponed.

It is well-known that Japan was a class society before the World War II, and the ranks and orders were indicated next to each other. The social status was indicated in formal documents according to the following rules. This system is still used today in a memorial address given at the time of a Diet member's death and the like.

Display Order
Rank (ranks in military, such as Army General and Full Admiral)
Ikai (the court rank)
Kunto (the order of merit)
Kokyu (ranks of the Orders of the Golden Kite)

Display Example
Prime Minister, Marshal Army General, Junior First Rank, Supreme Order, First Class, Prince, Doctor of Medicine, Taro NIPPON. Only an official post was indicated as a position.

The term 'Marshal' in 'Marshal Army General' was not a rank name but a title, however, it was written in front of 'Army General.'

Juichii (Junior First Rank) is indicated in the example, but the highest Ikai is Shoichii (Senior First Rank). However, Shoichii was not conferred to anyone alive (but was conferred posthumously).

The highest order of Kunto was the Supreme Order, and its lowest order was Kun hachito (the Eighth Order). The Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum and the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun include each order of decoration in their names, however, the order of decoration is not indicated in these cases.

Kinshi kunsho was conferred exclusively on the military or the civilian workers for the military.

An academic degree is not always indicated.

In the Diet under the Constitution of Japan where the Orders of the Golden Kite and peerages have been abolished, the rest of the ranks and orders excluding doctorates are still used in the memorial address for a Diet member. In this case, a former position such as 'former Prime Minister', or a position in a political party (only the highest position such as the president) other than official positions, is indicated sometime.

When a memorial address is given for a person who was conferred a decoration on without a numerical-notation Kunto (the order of merit) under the new system after November 3, 2003, the general rule of the old system, i.e., 'Only Kunto, no decoration', is not applied, and a decoration is indicated after Ikai like 'Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank) as follows: Senior Third Rank Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.'

The Imperial family (excluding Sanko [the Grand Empress Dowager, the Empress Dowager and the Empress Consort])
The Supreme Order, Imperial Prince -hito; The First Order of Merit, Imperial Princess -shi; The Order of the Second Class, Princess -shi/ko
The wife of Imperial Prince -hito, the First Order of Merit, -shi/ko
When indicating Kunto at the New Year Imperial Poetry Reading Party (until 1959) or in the epitaph of Imperial Family, it is put in front of the person's own name (in the case of an Imperial Prince and a Princess, their Kunto is not put in front of the name of their husband, Imperial Family).

[Original Japanese]