Declassified Documents from the MacArthur Archives

MacArthur Archives

Classified GHQ Intelligence Reports
on the History of the Chrysanthemum Throne

Third of Six Parts

MacArthur Headquarters Intelligence Briefings


15 December 1947

Imperial Family Loses Status

[ Comment ]
(Third of series)

(a) Social Revolution: Perhaps nothing is more indicative of the social and psychological revolution now in progress in Japan than the changed status of the Imperial Family. This change has been wrought in two years and is so drastic that if any one in Japan had even suggested it before the war, he would have paid for his rashness with his life.

(b) Emperor Loses Divinity Power: First to feel the effects of the revolution was the Emperor himself. State Shintoism, a tool which was used by the ultranationalists and the militarists to defy the Emperor, to delude the people and maintain their own power over the nation, was abolished as a State status and declared that he was a human being.

The new constitution removed the Emperors sovereign rights and conferred them on the people. The nation--its land and its people--which hither to had been the private property of the Emperor, was given to the people. The freedom to decide their own destiny, think as they pleased, and govern themselves was granted to all subjects, who became citizens. Public officials became public servants whose function was to execute the will of the people. The Emperor lost all political power and remained a symbol of the nation and the people's unity. He retains his empty title of "Emperor" but has no empire over which to reign. The Japanese Empire has fallen ant the so-called Emperor is reduced to a colorless, powerless, little King who reigns, but does not rule, over four small islands which are called Japan.

(c) Imperial Family Reduced: The Emperor's family has been drastically reduced and the Imperial Family tree has been pruned ruthlessly. The only individuals now retaining imperial status are the Emperor, his wife, his widowed mother, five of his six children, his three brothers and their wives, and one brothers two children. The Emperor's three unmarried daughters will lose their status and become common citizens. The daughter's husband, a former Imperial Prince who is now a common citizen, received no retirement allotment because he was a former army officer. The Emperor's three unmarried daughters will lose their status and become common citizens when they marry. Two of the Emperors brothers, who have been married many years, have no children. Since illegitimate children no longer are recognized nor adoption permitted in the Imperial Family, the houses of Prince CHICHIBU and Prince TAKAMATSU will become extinct in a few years. Hence the future dynasty is confined to the Emperors two sons and their descendants; in case of their death without male heirs, the succession would pass to male descendants of Prince MIKASA, the Emperor's youngest brother.

(d) Emperor Shorn of Wealth: Practically all of the Emperor's vast lands, which amounted to one sixth of Japan's area; his art treasures, palaces, stocks, and bonds have become the property of the nation. The Emperor, who was one of the world's wealthiest rulers, is now a poor man with few personal possessions, dependent on his annual allowance from the Government for the support of himself and his family. The protection under the law of lese majesty formerly enjoyed by the Emperor has been abolished under the new criminal code and the Emperor may be discussed and criticized as any common citizen.

The Emperor's Privy Council has been abolished. The president of this council committed suicide because of his inability to protect the imperial system. His court nobles and peers of the realm have lost their titles and have been deprived of their privileges and most of their property. More than 1000 noble families lost their titles. His family council has been abolished and matters affecting his household, his family, his economic affairs, and succession are decided by a Government-controlled council which includes only two Imperial Family representatives.

(e) Eleven Imperial Families Lose Status: Eleven Imperial Families who were related to the Emperor only remotely through an ancestor who is claimed to have lived some 23 generations ago, have lost their imperial status, their rank, their titles, and their royal privileges and have become common citizens.

This measure resulted in the loss of royal status by 51 members of the Imperial Family, 11 of whom were denied any right to share in a property allowance due to the fact that they were career military men and had participated in the recent war. (a) Further more the day after these military Princes had become common citizens they were summarily purged by the Screening Commission and became disqualified for public office. (b) One of those purged was the Emperor's son-in-law, former Prince HIGASHIKUNI Morihiro. Most of these 51 members of the Imperial Family already had lost most of their property by means of the capitol property tax which, in some cases, amounted to 90 percent of their holdings. Lacking business experience and contact with practical affairs of the world, their future is at least uncertain. Like all Japanese, they must now earn their place in Japan and in the world on their merits and their ability to succeed in the realm of peace.

For many generations these families have enjoyed privileges and have been accorded honors and dignities to which they had no legal nor moral rights. There are, no doubt, thousands of persons in Japan and other countries who have descended from royal families in the last 500 years but they earn their livelihood and make no ridiculous claims to imperial dignity.

GHQ Imperial History: Part II | Nancho Archives | GHQ Imperial History: Part IV