When it comes to the monarchical house, The Imperial House of Japan tends to be the oldest existing one that is still in succession. With great cities like Tokyo (formerly known as Edo), Kyoto, Osaka, etc., Japan has a very rich history that will excite any lover of history.

The origin of the Japanese Imperial House dates back to around 660 BC. This is to tell you how the Japanese hold it in a high state, preserving every part of their culture.

In Japan, emperors are more powerful than political leaders - they (emperors) are seen as a symbol of progress, patriotism, and national unity. Over the years, Japan has had hundreds of emperors that have seated on the throne of the palace. However, it seems some of them made remarkable impacts that made them more famous than others. This article is focused on showing you the 6 most famous emperors of the Imperial House of Japan.

Before jumping on the list of the most famous emperors of Japan, let us look at a brief history of Japan imperial house.

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A brief history of the members of the Japanese Imperial Family

The origin of the Imperial Household of Japan dates back to thousands of years ago and it is the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world that is still preserved. Constitutionally, the Emperor is seen as a symbol of unity and progress to the people of Japan, while the rest of the royal family take on other civic roles. Although there is recent controversy rocking the future of the throne, let's take a look at a brief history of the royal family.

Origin of the imperial household

According to Japanese history, Jimmu was the first to become emperor of Japan. He was a descendant of the storm god, Susanoo and the sun goddess, Amaterasu, two prominent figureheads in the Shinto religion. From the texts of Ancient Japanese, it states that Jimmu was enthroned as an emperor in 660 BC. Since he ascended the throne, the royal family line has never been broken. While there are bits of facts to back the ancient royal family tree, there is ample proves to show that the hereditary line has been preserved for the last 1,500 years - starting with Emperor Kinmei to the present emperor, the throne has been successively been inherited by the male heir in line.

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Emperor of Japan
A portrait of Emperor Hirohito | Photo Credit: snappygoat.com

Of all the emperors that have ruled Japan, Hirohito seems to be the longest-serving emperor to grace the royal palace. Also known as Emperor Showa, Hirohito ruled the country for over 60 years with a lot of trying times in the country. He ruled from 29 April 1901, to 7 January 1989. Known as Japan's most famous war criminal, Hirohito rose to fame during the build-up of the second world war and attained the royal seat after World War II. Due to his involvement in the war, he was seen as one of the finest war veterans Japan has ever known even though he was brutal at some phases. Nonetheless, after Japan surrendered, Hirohito was never sanctioned, and up till date, there is still a huge discrepancy about his involvement in the war.

Emperor Jimmu

When talking about the most famous emperors in Japan, it is impossible to omit Emperor Jimmu. As a matter of fact, Jimmu founded Japan after successful military combat that lasted for years and he was able to take control of Yamato,  a place where he eventually took the seat of power. According to the people of Japan and the world at large, emperor Jimmu is the most legendary traditional ruler Japan has ever witnessed.

According to history, during the final battle of the war, a golden bird landed on his bow, thus blinding the eyes of his opponents, giving him an edge to take the fight into his hands. He eventually conquered and rose to become the emperor in the palace. On February 11, a national holiday (Kigensetsu) was marked by the Meiji government in a way of celebrating his rise to the most coveted imperial throne. However, shortly after the war, the holiday was exterminated but was reinstated in 1966 as National Foundation Day.

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Japanese History
Crown Prince Akihito and Aish-II in 1954 | Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako were responsible for the birth of Akihito. He was the eldest son and automatically became the crown prince to the throne. While growing up as a kid, he was raised as a traditional imperial child, taking his education at the Peers' School in the year 1940. During World War II, Akihito moved out of Tokyo but returned in 1949, some years after the war. Due to the impact of the war on Japanese society, some of which include taking away power from the emperor and allowing to rule only ceremonially, Akihito had to broaden his education by receiving training in Western culture and the English language. He was taught by an American Quaker known as Elizabeth Gray Vining. He ended up pursuing a career in the field of marine biology.

In early 1952, Akihito was proclaimed the heir apparent to the Japanese throne. Seven years later, a record of 1,500 years was broken when he married Empress Shoda Michiko, a commoner and a daughter of a successful Japanese businessman. On the 23rd of February, 1960, they gave birth to Naruhito, their first child (a boy), who automatically became the crown prince and the eventual new emperor. Other children they gave birth to include Prince Akishino and Princess Nori.

Emperor Naruhito

Naruhito became the 126th emperor that graced the imperial palace after a series of traditional rituals were performed at the palace. He succeeded is dad, emperor Akihito, who became the first ruler to step down after over two centuries. During the transition, a brief ceremony (Sokui no Rei) was held, during which Naruhito proclaimed himself as the emperor of the whole world.

Quite a number of dignitaries from different countries around the world graced the occasion, including Britsh Prince Charles, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and EU foreign policy chief Mogherini Federica.

Following the ceremony, it was reported by the local media that the Japanese government had pardoned more than 500,000 people convicted for less severe crimes such as traffic violations. This is usually done whenever a new crown prince is about to be enthroned. The practice of pardoning convicted people has been condemned by many people, believing that it is very undemocratic of the constitution. Naruhito got married to Empress Masaka in 1993.

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Emperor Meiji

Emperor Meiji of Japan
A photograph of Meiji and the Royal Family | Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Meiji reigned from 3 February 1867 to 30 July 1912. He was the ruler at a period when the country experienced a dramatic change from being a mere traditional country to becoming one of the powerful countries in the world. During his reign, he led Japan to embrace Western culture, which includes wearing western clothing and eating western food. Meiji was made the Japanese emperor as the Tokugawa shogunate came to an end and the imperial elite retook sovereign authority over the Japanese territory.

 Emperor Kammu

Emperor Kammu was born Kammu Tenno Yamanobe in 737 in Nara, Japan. He was responsible for establishing the Japanese Capital at Heian-Kyo, where it was until 1868. Kammu achievement was responsible for the Heian period (794 - 1185).

Kammu was enthroned as Japan emperor in 781, and he went on to become one of the strongest rulers the country ever had for many centuries. After assuming office, his government was threatened by the Buddhist religious leaders because they were giving taxation immunity and had ambitions in politics. For that reason, Kammu had to act swiftly, passing a law that restricted the construction of more Buddhist buildings and stopped the donation or sale of land to build any Buddhist institution. Being a Buddhist himself, Kammu supported the success and growth of two Buddhist sects because they opposed those (other Buddhist sects) threatening his government.

The primary challenge facing the court was how to control the local officials. To prevent the officials from falsifying their status by promoting their ranks, Kammu depended on genealogical charts. He also frowned against the purchase of ranks by the local officials.

At the boundary in the north, he countermanded former military hitch and succeeded in conquering the Ainu, the aboriginal folks of northern Hokkaido and Honshu.

In an attempt to bypass the great monasteries in the former capital of Nara, Kammu moved the movement about 48 km north of Nagaoka-Kyo in 784. About ten years later, the magnificent work at the new government seat was stopped because there was a belief that the capital was haunted by the spirit of Kammus's late brother. The late brother was the crown prince but was banished from the royal family and starved to death. Emperor Kammu died on the 9th of April, 806 at Heian-Kyo, now known as Kyoto.

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A seasoned writer with a knack for various niches. As a physics graduate, I enjoy carrying out detailed research on a particular topic before drafting up an eye-catching and engaging article.