Japan’s Monarchy Explained
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Japan’s Monarchy Explained

August 24, 2019

In a rare public address in August 2016, Emperor
Akihito (ah-kee-HEE-toh) of Japan suggested that he may abdicate the throne. Japanese emperors are constitutionally barred
from stepping down, and no monarch has done so in nearly 200 years. Japan is a highly developed country with a
liberal democracy, and yet it has the oldest continuing monarchy in the world. So how does Japan’s monarchy actually work? Well, Japan’s Imperial Family is a hereditary
monarchy, not unlike those which are common in Europe and the Middle East. The head of the family is the Emperor, and
according to Japan’s constitution, he is the “symbol of the State and of the unity
of the people”. As such, the Emperor’s role is largely that
of a figurehead. That is, he attends diplomatic functions,
provides support after natural disasters, awards honors, and performs a number of other
symbolic duties. In fact, the Emperor only has two formal responsibilities:
appointing the Prime Minister as designated by parliament, and appointing the Chief Justice
as designated by the Cabinet. The Emperor does not take part in the lawmaking
process and in fact, is rarely even seen by the public. Since Emperor Akihito took the throne in 1989,
he has only addressed the country on television once prior to his recent appearance. Japan’s Imperial Family has existed for
thousands of years, and their role has evolved throughout history. From the 12th to 19th centuries, Japan was
ruled shoguns, or military dictators. Similar to today’s Prime Ministers, their
authority was only legitimate if it was approved by the Emperor. But when the shogunate dissolved in 1868,
a new constitution gave the Emperor the authority to create and enforce laws and exercise “supreme
command of the Army and Navy”. This lasted until the aftermath of World War
II, when the occupying United States imposed a new constitution barring the Emperor from
taking part in politics. This era marked not only a shift in the Emperor’s
sovereignty, but also in his public persona. According to Japanese mythology, the first
Emperor in 660 BC, as well as each of the 124 rulers that succeeded him, are descendents
of the Sun Goddess of Japan’s Shinto faith. In fact, the Japanese word for Emperor literally
translates to “heavenly sovereign”. and throughout history, Emperors have even been
referred to as ‘gods’. This narrative was reinforced by centuries
of tradition as well as government propaganda, and during the second World War, it culminated
in Imperial cults, kamikaze bombers and other fanaticism. After Japan lost the war, the Emperor publicly
announced that he was not a god, and rejected the belief that Emperors are divine. In order for Emperor Akihito to resign, Japanese
parliament must revisit a 1947 law barring him from doing so. Although nothing has been confirmed, Akihito’s
56-year-old son would likely advance to the throne. But Japan is famously resistant to change,
and reconsidering the role of its Emperor once again, may be a long and arduous road. If you’re like me and love history, science
and exploration, you should check out Discovery Go. You can binge watch all seasons – current
and past – of your favorite Discovery channel shows! I’m currently working my way through Mythbusters,
probably not a surprise. Check out the link in the description below
to learn more. CTA
Japan is the only country that still has an emperor but there are a handful of nations
that still have kings and queens. To learn more about the monarchies of the
world, check out our video here. Thanks for watching SD make sure to like and

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  1. Why don't you turn the music up just a little more? Then I won't be able to even notice you're speaking in the background.

  2. But why do they have an Emperor, and not a King? What makes them an Imperial family rather tan a Royal family?
    Japan's Empire fell decades ago, and as far as I'm aware they have no overseas territories.

  3. Can a random japanese be the emperor (given the fact that he/shr has all the qualification, knowledge and wisdom) ?

  4. Let's talk about why the emperor cannot abdicate. We in Japan are fanatical about following rules. Constitutionally, the Emperor cannot influence politics, yet we require a law to be created in order for the Emperor to step down. See the problem now?

  5. I do find Japan's rule that females aren't not allowed to inherit the throne and that princesses losing their title for marrying commoners quite old fashioned and ludicrous and they need to change if they want the monarchy to survive . Right now the Japanese monarchy only have one heir Prince Hisahito , what happens if he doesn't marry or he only has daughters ? Who is going to inherit the throne then ?

  6. As a Japanese, I would like to respect our Emperor and hope Japan will preserve its own tradition and the structure of Japan.

  7. Japanese monarch runs for over 2600 years. before past 200 years, there were emperors who stepped down before ending lives. also there were female emperors in the past. the west is so eager to make japanese monarch look bad, in reality they are more down to earth than any of european royals.

  8. The title is more like [ Japan's Monarchy Explained FAILED!] Very superficial. You need to learn more about the Ten-nou of Japan. It cannot be defined as a monarchy by the western standard, though the Meiji Government and the post-war Government have tried to incorporate the Ten-nou into western style Monarchy. Shin-to also cannot be defined as a religion. So, NowThis World you people need to really study the shin-to and the Japanese civilization to understand the true essence of the Japanese people and most of all, the Ten-nou.

  9. Literally a puppet of the politicians. Only few monarch are still fully control the country.. not even malaysia where monarch power were suppressed by the federal

  10. what the guy describes at the beginning is basically a constatunional Monarchy which is in every single civilized country that has a Monarchy aka like Spain, UK and the Dutch to name a few.

  11. May Allahs honor and blessings be upon you and your family for your hard efforts to help us children of Adam ṣallā Allāhu ʿalayhi wa- ala ālihi wa-sallam

  12. its crazy how i went from a insane liberal as a young teenage to a unironic nationalist. a good homogeneous ethnic nation will always be much happier then the melting pot

  13. Are you crazy… it’s the worst in Asia from ancient times til now… they were the most violent and inhumane soldiers in the past, the worst society in the current times, economically and socially, they treat workers like slaves, and has the craziest underground society due to that as well.

  14. Emperors are greater than the king. Those Kamakazi s were very loyal to the Caesar of Japan , during WW2.

  15. This is flatly wrong. Emperor puts an imperial seal on legislation. He has diplomatic duties. He opens the legislative sessions.

  16. 我が国 日本は建国から2600年以上も滅びることなく続いている東洋の超大国である。


  18. When is Star Citizen going to be launched? Will the United Earth Alliance be overthrown by the Stanton Corporation?

  19. How do monarchies form though? Like why that family instead of another? All I see when looking this up, all I see is monarchs invading other lands. Like, that doesn’t help answer how monarchies form. Only how they expand.

  20. I just don’t understand the point of having a monarch if they don’t rule their kingdoms. Also, where does their wealth come from and should it belong to the republic?

  21. From my understanding there is only one royal family recognized on Japan. Am I right? If no, what are the other royals.

  22. dont worry prince hisahito will preserve the lineage. even if it fails, were a bipartisan democracy that no longer needs the emperor.

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