Yearbook Japan, 2019, vol. 48, pp. 9–24

DOI: 10.24411/0235-8182-2019-10001

Change of Imperial rule in Japan: Causes and consequences

V.O. Kistanov

Abstract. The article is devoted to an important historical event that took place in May 2019 in Japan — the change of Imperial rule and, accordingly, the era of Imperial rule. On May 1, Crown Prince Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum throne. He replaced his father, Emperor Akihito. The article discusses the causes and consequences of this event for the country in terms of its domestic and foreign policy. Attention is drawn to the fact that Akihito left the throne of his own free will, which has not happened in Japan for the last more than 200 years. Despite the fact that under the current Constitution, the Emperor in Japan is only a symbol of the state and the unity of the nation, the influence of Emperor Akihito on political life and public sentiment in the country should not be underestimated. Features of change of monarchs in Japan distinguishing it from other countries of the world are emphasized. The new era of Imperial rule was called Reiwa. This term can be interpreted in different meanings. The word Reiwa was generally well received in Japanese society. However, some politicians questionedthe correctness of the choice of the first character rei in the title because of itsassociation with the meaning of "order". In Japan, the idea of abdication of thecurrent Emperor caused a furor and rejection from the conservative forces, which are based on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They fear that the resurgence of thedebate about the future of the Imperial family may once again raise the question of the possibility of a woman inheriting the throne in Japan. An important aspect of the activities of the Imperial house is not only to maintain ties with the monarchies still preserved in some countries, but also to strengthen Japan's relations with other states — the so-called imperial diplomacy. The reception of US President D. Trump by the new Japanese monarch and his wife at the end of May should symbolize the priority of relations between Tokyo and Washington. The article also touches upon the history of relations between the Imperial house of Japan and Russia.

Keywords: Japan, the Emperor, Naruhito, Akihito, the succession, the era ofReiwa, the imperial diplomacy.

Author: Kistanov Valeriy O., Doctor of Sciences (History), Head of the Centerfor Japa nese Studies, Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy ofSciences. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Contents of the issue: Yearbook Japan, 2019, Vol. 48.