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List of Japanese Emperors from 660 BC – Present

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Emperor Meiji, a more recent member of the long list of Japanese emperors, reigned from 1867-1912

Exploring the rich tapestry of Japan’s history, our latest post dives into the fascinating list of Japanese emperors, spanning centuries of rule.

From the legendary figure of Emperor Jimmu, traditionally dated to 660 B.C., to the present Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the throne in 2019, this guide offers a snapshot of the leaders who have shaped the nation.

Join us as we journey through time, highlighting key emperors and the eras they ruled over, providing a glimpse into the legacy and traditions that have influenced Japan’s cultural and political landscape.

Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious, this basic list of Japanese emperors, complete with dates of reign, serves as a perfect starting point for anyone looking to delve into the intriguing history of Japan’s imperial lineage.

List of Japanese Emperors Throughout History

Image of Emperor Jimmu for an blog post covering the list of Japanese emperors.
The first recorded Emperor of Japan, Jimmu, who reigned from 660-585 BC
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For more content related to the history of Japan, check out my post, 10 Legendary Samurai Warriors Who Shaped Japanese History!

Image of a mural of Japanese emperors throughout history for a blog post providing a list of Japanese emperors.
A mural of Japanese emperors throughout history

FAQs: List of Japanese Emperors

1. Has Japan ever had a female emperor?

Yes, Japan has had female emperors.


Historically, eight women have ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne.


These female rulers, known as “Empress Regnants,” include notable figures such as Empress Suiko, who reigned from 593 to 628, and Empress Kōken, who reigned twice, first from 749 to 758 and then as Empress Shōtoku from 764 to 770.


The last female emperor was Empress Go-Sakuramachi, who ruled from 1762 to 1771.


These women led the country during different periods, demonstrating that Japan’s imperial history includes significant contributions from female leaders.




2. How old was the youngest emperor of Japan when they assumed the throne?

The youngest emperor of Japan to assume the throne was Emperor Antoku, who became emperor at the tender age of 2 years old in 1180.


His reign, however, was during a tumultuous period in Japanese history, marked by the Genpei War, a conflict that led to the establishment of samurai rule over Japan.


Emperor Antoku’s reign was short-lived; he tragically died at the age of 6, in 1185, during the Battle of Dan-no-ura, a decisive battle that ended the war and solidified the Minamoto clan’s power in Japan.




3. What is the role of the Emperor of Japan today?

Today, the Emperor of Japan serves as a symbolic figurehead, embodying the unity and continuity of the nation.


Following Japan’s post-World War II constitution, which was enacted in 1947, the emperor holds no governing power or political authority.


Instead, his role is largely ceremonial and includes participating in various cultural and public events, national ceremonies, and diplomatic meetings.


The Emperor performs duties such as greeting foreign dignitaries, attending cultural events, and partaking in traditional Shinto religious ceremonies.


Emperor Naruhito, the current emperor, continues this tradition, representing Japan’s cultural heritage and acting as a symbol of the Japanese people’s peace and unity.




References: List of Japanese Emperors

Baker, Brandon. “Japan’s Modern Monarchy: How It Works.” Penn Today, 22 May 2019, penntoday.upenn.edu/news/japans-modern-monarchy-how-it-works.

Blakemore, Erin. “The Japanese Monarchy Is the World’s Oldest. Learn about Its History—and Its Future.” Culture, 29 Apr. 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/japanese-monarchy.

Cartwright, Mark. “Emperor of Japan.” World History Encyclopedia, 10 July 2019, www.worldhistory.org/Emperor_of_Japan/.

“How the Japanese Imperial Family, the World’s Oldest Royal Line, Transcends Time.” Boston University, www.bu.edu/articles/2019/how-the-japanese-imperial-family-the-worlds-oldest-royal-line-transcends-time/.

“The Imperial Household Agency.” Kunaicho.go.jp, 2021, www.kunaicho.go.jp/eindex.html.

University, Stanford, et al. “Japan’s Imperial Family.” Spice.fsi.stanford.edu, spice.fsi.stanford.edu/docs/japans_imperial_family.

“Why Are Only Men Allowed on Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne?” The Independent, 8 Aug. 2021, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/women/emperor-japan-man-woman-throne-b1898208.html. Accessed 14 Feb. 2024.

Metmuseum.org, 2019, www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jaru/hd_jaru.htm.