A "marquis" or "marquess" is the second of five peerage ranks. It ranks below a duke and above a count. It was used in China, modern Japan, Europe and Russia as a peerage rank.
Marquis in Japan
In Japan the Peerage Law was enacted by Imperial Household Ministry in 1884 after Meiji Restoration, and Article 2 stipulated the Kazoku (peerage) was divided into Gotoshaku or five ranks including duke, marquis, count, viscount and baron, under which a marquis ranked second after a duke
In 1889, when Imperial Edict No.11, Kizokuin (the House of Peers) Law was established, Article 1-2 of the edict entitled a marquis to be a member of the House of Peers. In 1907, Koshitsu-rei (the Imperial Families' Act) No.2, the Peerage Law was enacted and precisely defined the inheritance and dignity of peerage and other procedures.
The title of marquis was granted according to the following standard.
In case of demotion from an Imperial family member to a subject, the first person who was demoted from his or her Miyake (house of an imperial prince) was granted the title of marquis, the second or later the title of count. Among sixteen former Imperial families that were demoted to Kazoku peerage by the end of the World War II, seven were granted the title of marquis.
Kuge (Court noble)
Former Seiga family
Among nine families, Sanjo family became dukes while Saionji family and Tokudaiji family were promoted later as well. In addition, though Shijo family (due to their great achievement at the Restoration) and Nakayama family (maternal relatives of Emperor Meiji) were not included in Seiga family, they were granted the title of marquis. Later on, Saga family and Nakanomikado family were promoted from count to marquis due to their achievement at the Restoration, and finally ten families in total were admitted marquises.
Buke (Samurai family)
Former Gosanke (three privileged branches) and former prefectural governors of large scale domains (with more than 150,000 koku, or approximately 27 million liters of rice yield after Boshin War)
Fourteen families in total met the requirement, among which Shimazu family and Mori family were granted the title of duke. Later, Mito-Tokugawa family was promoted to duke, Matsudaira clan of Fukui Domain, Echizen Province and Date clan of Uwajima Domain, Iyo Province were promoted from count, and as a result fourteen families in total were admitted marquises.
Former royal family of Ryukyu Domain
Those who have rendered great services to the state
At the time when the peerage system was inaugurated in 1884, peerage was newly conferred on only descendants of Toshimichi OKUBO and Takayoshi KIDO (descendants of Takamori SAIGO were excluded due to Seinan War), and later thirteen families became marquises, among which five families were promoted to dukes. Finally ten families in total were admitted marquises.
Since difference in benefit between a count and a marquis existed (there were benefits which were provided for a count but not for a marquis), in some cases people became poorer due to their promotion.
When the Constitution of Japan went into effect on May 3, 1947, the peerage system involving marquises was abolished.
As for family names, only for those whose family names became the same as their head families due to the secession from the Imperial Family in 1946, 'Marquis' was put before their family names in writing to avoid confusion.