House of Peers (Japan)

The House of Peers (貴族院, Kizoku-in) was the upper house of the Imperial Diet as mandated under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (in effect from 11 February 1889 to 3 May 1947).

House of Peers


Coat of arms or logo
House of Peers, 1915
Established6 March 1871
Disbanded2 May 1947
Succeeded byHouse of Councillors
Seats251 (1889)
409 (at peak, 1938)
373 (1947)
Last election
Meeting place
National Diet Building, Tokyo


Emperor Meiji in a formal session of the House of Peers. Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Yōshū Chikanobu, 1890

In 1869, under the new Meiji government, a Japanese peerage was created by an Imperial decree merging the former Court nobility (kuge) and former feudal lords (daimyos) into a single new aristocratic class called the kazoku. A second imperial ordinance in 1884 grouped the kazoku into five ranks equivalent to the European aristocrats, prince (or duke), marquis, count, viscount, and baron.[1] Although this grouping idea was taken from the European peerage, the Japanese titles were taken from Chinese and based on the ancient feudal system in China. Itō Hirobumi and the other Meiji leaders deliberately modeled the chamber on the British House of Lords, as a counterweight to the popularly elected House of Representatives (Shūgiin).


The House Of Peers in 1910

In 1889, the House of Peers Ordinance established the House of Peers and its composition. For the first session of the Imperial Diet (November 1890–March 1891), there were 145 hereditary members and 106 imperial appointees and high taxpayers, for a total of 251 members. In the 1920s, four new peers elected by the Japan Imperial Academy were added, and the number of peers elected by the top taxpayers of each prefecture was increased from 47 to 66 as some prefectures now elected two members. Inversely, the minimum age for hereditary (dukes and marquesses) and mutually elected (counts, viscounts and barons) noble peers was increased to 30, slightly reducing their number. By 1938, membership reached 409 seats.[2] After the addition of seats for the Empire's colonies Chōsen (Japanese colonial name of Korea) and Taiwan (Japanese name of Formosa) during the last stages of WWII, it stood at 418 at the beginning of the 89th Imperial Diet in November 1945,[3] briefly before Douglas MacArthur's "purge" barred many members from public office. In 1947 during its 92nd and final session, the number of members was 373.


After revisions to the ordinance, notably in 1925, the House of Peers comprised:

  • The Crown Prince (Kōtaishi) and the Imperial Grandson and Heir Presumptive (Kōtaison) from the age of 18, with the term of office for life.
  • All Imperial Princes (shinnō) and lesser Princes of the Imperial Blood (ō) over the age of 20, with the term of office for life.
  • All Princes and Marquises over the age of 25 (raised to 30 in 1925), with the term of office for life.
  • 18 Counts, 66 Viscounts and 66 Barons over the age of 25 (raised to 30 in 1925), for seven-year terms.
  • 125 distinguished politicians and scientists over the age of 30 and nominated by the Emperor in consultation with the Privy Council, with the term of office for life
  • 4 members of the Imperial Academy over the age of 30, elected by the academicians and nominated by the Emperor, for seven-year terms.
  • 66 elected representatives of the 6000 highest taxpayers, over the age of 30 and for seven-year terms.


Postwar dissolutionEdit

After World War II, under the current Constitution of Japan, in effect from 3 May 1947, the unelected House of Peers was replaced by an elected House of Councillors.


No. Name Portrait Title Term of office Sessions
Took office Left office Time in office
1 Itō Hirobumi   Count (hakushaku) 24 October 1890 20 July 1891 269 days 1
2 Hachisuka Mochiaki   Marquis (kōshaku) 20 July 1891 3 October 1896 5 years, 75 days 2–9
3 Konoe Atsumaro   Prince (kōshaku) 3 October 1896 4 December 1903 7 years, 62 days 10–18
4 Tokugawa Iesato   Prince (kōshaku) 4 December 1903 9 June 1933 29 years, 187 days 19–64
5 Fumimaro Konoe   Prince (kōshaku) 9 June 1933 17 June 1937 4 years, 8 days 65–70
6 Yorinaga Matsudaira   Count (hakushaku) 17 June 1937 11 October 1944 7 years, 116 days 71–85
7 Tokugawa Kuniyuki   Prince (kōshaku) 11 October 1944 19 June 1946 1 year, 251 days 86–89
8 Tokugawa Iemasa   Prince (kōshaku) 19 June 1946 2 May 1947 317 days 90–92

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Twentieth Century. Nineteenth Century and After. 1907.
  2. ^ p. 109, "Government: The Imperial Diet - House of Peers," Japan Year Book 1938-1939, Kenkyusha Press, Foreign Association of Japan, Tokyo
  3. ^ National Diet Library, Reference (レファレンス, an NDL periodical) 2005.5, Hidehisa Ōyama 帝国議会の運営と会議録をめぐって; contains an appended table listing membership by category at the beginning of each Imperial Diet]
  4. ^ p. 109, "Government: The Imperial Diet - House of Peers," Japan Year Book 1938-1939, Kenkyusha Press, Foreign Association of Japan, Tokyo