The history of the Japanese emperor is a long and storied one, dating back over a thousand years. The institution of the emperor, known as the “Tennō” in Japanese, is one of the oldest continuous hereditary monarchies in the world.
According to legend, Japan’s first emperor, Emperor Jimmu, ascended to the throne in 660 B.C. However, historical records become more reliable from around the 5th century A.D. with Emperor Ōjin. Over the centuries, the role and power of the emperor varied. At times, emperors wielded significant political influence, while in other eras, they were more symbolic figures with the real power resting with shoguns or other leaders.
The Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century marked a pivotal moment in Japanese imperial history. Emperor Meiji played a central role in modernizing Japan and transforming it into a constitutional monarchy. The Emperor’s role became largely symbolic under the Meiji Constitution of 1889, a role that continues to the present day.
Japan’s imperial family maintains a revered position in Japanese culture and society, embodying a sense of continuity and tradition in a rapidly changing world. Emperor Naruhito, as of my last knowledge update in September 2021, serves as the current emperor, continuing this rich and evolving legacy.