Learn about the history—and future—of the Japanese monarchy
Emperor Akihito will be the first ruler to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne, and the future of the ceremonial position remains murky.
For over 2,600 years, the same family has reigned over Japan. As the world’s oldest continuous hereditary dynasty—sometimes revered for its link to Shinto gods—the Japanese monarchy has been in existence since around 660 B.C., and physical evidence of its reign dates to roughly 300 A.D. Today the Imperial House of Japan has a symbolic role but no executive or military power within the Japanese state. Even so, the monarchy has traditional significance, though it exercises no state political power.
The Japanese monarchy began with Emperor Jimmu, who supposedly began his empire in 660 B.C. after warring with local chieftains. However, Jimmu is largely seen as a symbolic and legendary figure. Scholars speculate that Jimmu, a descendant of the