Prime Minister of Japan

The prime minister of Japan (Japanese: 内閣総理大臣, Hepburn: Naikaku Sōri-Daijin) is the head of government and the highest political position of Japan. The prime minister chairs the Cabinet of Japan and has the ability to select and dismiss its ministers of state. The prime minister also serves as the commander-in-chief of the Japan Self Defence Forces[2] and is a sitting member of either house of the National Diet (typically the House of Representatives). The current prime minister is Fumio Kishida of the Liberal Democratic Party, who assumed the office on 4 October 2021.[3]

Prime Minister of Japan
Emblem of the prime minister of Japan
Standard of the prime minister of Japan
Fumio Kishida
since 4 October 2021
Executive branch of the Japanese government
Office of the Prime Minister
StyleNaikaku sōridaijin
TypeHead of government
Member ofCabinet
National Security Council
National Diet
NominatorNational Diet
Term lengthFour years or fewer,
renewable indefinitely.[a]
Constituting instrumentConstitution of Japan
PrecursorDaijō-daijin of Japan
Formation22 December 1885; 138 years ago (1885-12-22)
First holderItō Hirobumi
DeputyDeputy Prime Minister
Salary¥40,490,000/US$ 296,478 annually[1]
WebsiteOfficial website

The Emperor appoints as prime minister the person who is nominated by the National Diet (the parliament). The prime minister must retain the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office. The prime minister lives and works at the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Nagatachō, Chiyoda, Tokyo, close to the National Diet Building.

Sixty-four men have served as prime minister, the first of whom was Itō Hirobumi taking office on 22 December 1885. The longest-serving prime minister was Shinzo Abe, who served over eight years, and the shortest-serving was Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni, who served eight weeks.





In Japanese, due to the special nature of the work of the head of government, the prime minister's titles vary depending on context, sometimes demonstrating his/her role. Since the inception of the cabinet system, the prime minister is known in Japanese as Naikaku Sōri-Daijin (内閣総理大臣) whenever he is referred to as the head of the Cabinet. However, this title is usually abbreviated to Sōri-Daijin (総理大臣). Other abbreviations include Sōri (総理), Shushō (首相) or even Saishō (宰相).[4]

English notation


The official English rendering is 'Prime Minister'.[5] This English translation was informally used as the English translation of 'Grand Minister' before the introduction of the cabinet system. However, this was not the original English translation of 'Prime Minister', and a German translation, 'Minister President of the State', was also used in the past.


Itō Hirobumi, the first Prime Minister of Japan

Before the adoption of the Meiji Constitution, Japan had in practice no written constitution. Originally, a Chinese-inspired legal system known as ritsuryō was enacted in the late Asuka period and early Nara period. It described a government based on an elaborate and rational meritocratic bureaucracy, serving, in theory, under the ultimate authority of the emperor; although in practice, real power was often held elsewhere, such as in the hands of the Fujiwara clan, who intermarried with the imperial family in the Heian period, or by the ruling shōgun. Theoretically, the last ritsuryō code, the Yōrō Code enacted in 752, was still in force at the time of the Meiji Restoration.[6]

Under this system, the Daijō-daijin (太政大臣, Chancellor of the Realm)[7] was the head of the Daijō-kan (Department of State), the highest organ of Japan's pre-modern Imperial government during the Heian period and until briefly under the Meiji Constitution with the appointment of Sanjō Sanetomi in 1871. The office was replaced in 1885 with the appointment of Itō Hirobumi to the new position of Minister President of State,[8] four years before the enactment of the Meiji Constitution, which mentions neither the Cabinet nor the position of Prime Minister explicitly.[9][10] It took its current form with the adoption of the Constitution of Japan in 1947.

To date, 64 people have served this position. The longest serving prime minister to date is Shinzo Abe, who served as prime minister in two terms: from 26 September 2006 until 26 September 2007, and from 26 December 2012 until 16 September 2020.[11]



The prime minister is nominated by both houses of the Diet, before the conduct of any other business. For that purpose, each conducts a ballot under the run-off system. If the two houses choose different individuals, then a joint committee of both houses is appointed to agree on a common nominee. Ultimately, however, if the two houses do not agree within ten days, the decision of the House of Representatives is deemed to be that of the Diet. Therefore, the House of Representatives can theoretically ensure the appointment of any prime minister it wants.[12] The nominee is then presented with his or her commission, and formally appointed to office by the emperor.[13]

Conventionally, the prime minister is almost always the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives, or the leader of the senior partner in the governing coalition. But there have been three cabinet prime ministers from junior coalition partners (Ashida 1948, Hosokawa 1993, Murayama 1994), a few minority governments (most recently the Hata Cabinet in 1994 and at least numerically the Second Hashimoto Cabinet of 1996 during its first year, but with an extra-cabinet cooperation (閣外協力, kakugai kyōryoku) agreement with two parties, sufficient to ensure safe majorities for most government initiatives), and several cabinets with a majority in the House of Representatives, but without legislative majority of their own (most recently the DPJ-led cabinets after the 2010 election; cf. Nejire Kokkai/"twisted Diets").[citation needed]


  • Must be a member of either house of the Diet. (This implies a minimum age of 25 and a Japanese nationality requirement.)[14]
  • Must be a civilian. This excludes serving members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Former military persons may be appointed, with Yasuhiro Nakasone being one prominent example.[14]



Constitutional roles

  • Exercises "control and supervision" over the entire executive branch.[15]
  • Presents bills to the Diet on behalf of the Cabinet.[16]
  • Signs laws and Cabinet orders (along with other members of the Cabinet).[17]
  • Appoints all Cabinet ministers, and can dismiss them at any time.[18]
  • May permit legal action to be taken against Cabinet ministers.[19]
  • Must make reports on domestic and foreign relations to the Diet.[16]
  • Must report to the Diet upon demand to provide answers or explanations.[20]
  • May advise the emperor to dissolve the Diet's House of Representatives.[21]

Statutory roles


Unlike most of his counterparts in constitutional monarchies, the prime minister is both de jure and de facto chief executive. In most other constitutional monarchies, the monarch is nominal chief executive, while being bound by convention to act on the advice of the cabinet. In contrast, the Constitution of Japan explicitly vests executive power in the Cabinet, of which the prime minister is the leader. His countersignature is required for all laws and Cabinet orders. While most ministers in parliamentary democracies have some freedom of action within the bounds of cabinet collective responsibility, the Japanese Cabinet is effectively an extension of the prime minister's authority.



Official office and residence

Kantei, the Prime Minister's Official Residence

Located near the Diet building, the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan is called the Kantei (官邸). The original Kantei served from 1929 until 2002, when a new building was inaugurated to serve as the current Kantei.[25] The old Kantei was then converted into the Official Residence, or Kōtei (公邸).[26] The Kōtei lies to the southwest of the Kantei, and is linked by a walkway.[26]



The prime minister of Japan travels in a Toyota Century, which replaced the Lexus LS 600h L in 2019.

For overseas air travel, the Japanese government maintains two Boeing 777, which replaced the Boeing 747-400 also in 2019. The aircraft is also used by the emperor, the members of the imperial family, and other high-ranking officials.

They have the radio callsigns Japanese Air Force One and Japanese Air Force Two when operating on official business, and Cygnus One and Cygnus Two when operating outside of official business (e.g., on training flights). The aircraft always fly together on government missions, with one serving as the primary transport and the other serving as a backup with maintenance personnel on board. The aircraft are officially referred to as Japanese government exclusive aircraft (日本国政府専用機, Nippon-koku seifu sen'yōki).[27]

Honours and emoluments


Until the mid-1930s, the prime minister of Japan was normally granted a hereditary peerage (kazoku) prior to leaving office if he had not already been ennobled. Titles were usually bestowed in the ranks of count, viscount or baron, depending on the relative accomplishments and status of the prime minister. The two highest ranks, marquess and prince, were only bestowed upon highly distinguished statesmen, and were not granted to a prime minister after 1928. The last prime minister who was a peer was Baron Kijūrō Shidehara, who served as Prime Minister from October 1945 to May 1946. The peerage was abolished when the Constitution of Japan came into effect in May 1947.

Certain eminent prime ministers have been awarded the Order of the Chrysanthemum, typically in the degree of Grand Cordon. The highest honour in the Japanese honours system, the Collar of the Order of the Chrysanthemum, has only been conferred upon select prime ministers and eminent statesmen; the last such award to a living prime minister was to Saionji Kinmochi in 1928. More often, the Order of the Chrysanthemum has been a posthumous distinction; both the Collar and Grand Cordon of the order were last awarded posthumously to former prime minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022.[28]

After relinquishing office, the prime minister is normally accorded the second or senior third rank in the court order of precedence, and is usually raised to the senior second rank posthumously. Certain distinguished prime ministers have been posthumously raised to the first rank; the last such award was to Eisaku Sato in 1975. Since the 1920s, following their tenure in office, Prime ministers have typically been conferred with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers (until 2003 a special higher class of the Order of the Rising Sun), depending on tenure and eminence. However, honours may be withheld due to misconduct or refusal on the part of the prime minister (for example, Kiichi Miyazawa).

The Prime Minister also awards individuals in recognition of their accomplishments in sport, entertainment, and other fields. Some of the awards and commendations offered include the Prime Minister's Award, created by Eisaku Satō in 1966, and the People's Honour Award, created by Takeo Fukuda in 1977. Additionally, the PM also presents the Prime Minister's Trophy on behalf of the Japan Professional Sports Association and the Monodzukuri Nippon award on behalf of the Japanese Manufacturing Association.

See also



  1. ^ The Cabinet shall resign en masse after a general election of members of the House of Representatives. Their term of office is four years which can be terminated earlier. No limits are imposed on the number of terms or tenures the Prime Minister may hold. The Prime Minister is, by convention, the leader of the victorious party, though some prime ministers have been elected from junior coalition partners or minority parties.


  1. ^ 首相は4049万円、閣僚の給料は安い?高い? 菅内閣誕生ドキュメント (in Japanese), The Nikkei, 16 September 2020, retrieved 20 May 2022
  2. ^ "Book review: A nuanced deep dive on Japan's Self-Defense Forces".
  3. ^ "Fumio Kishida: Japan's new prime minister takes office". BBC News. 4 October 2021. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  4. ^ 字通,世界大百科事典内言及, 日本大百科全書(ニッポニカ),旺文社世界史事典 三訂版,精選版 日本国語大辞典,デジタル大辞泉,世界大百科事典 第2版,普及版. "宰相とは". コトバンク (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "内閣官房組織等英文名称一覧|内閣官房ホームページ". Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  6. ^ Osamu, Ryoichi (May 2021). "POLITICAL CHANGING FOR PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN". International Journal of Law Reconstruction.
  7. ^ Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha Limited, ISBN 4-7674-2015-6
  8. ^ Legal framework for Prime Minister and Cabinet in the Empire: Dajōkan proclamation No. 69 of 22 December 1885 (内閣職権, naikaku shokken)[permanent dead link], later replaced by Imperial edict No. 135 of 1889 (内閣官制, naikaku kansei) Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine in effect until 1947
  9. ^ Article 55 of the Imperial Constitution only bound the ministers of state, i.e. all members of the cabinet including the prime minister, to "give their advice to the Emperor and be responsible for it."
  10. ^ Kantei: Cabinet System of Japan
  11. ^ "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe officially resigns". CBSNews. AP. 16 September 2020.
  12. ^ Article 67 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)
  13. ^ Article 6 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)
  14. ^ a b "The Constitution of Japan - Japanese/English - Japanese Law Translation". Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  15. ^ Article 5 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)
  16. ^ a b Article 72 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)
  17. ^ Article 74 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)
  18. ^ Article 68 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)
  19. ^ Article 75 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)
  20. ^ Article 63 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)
  21. ^ Article 7 of the Constitution of Japan (1947)
  22. ^ Cabinet Act2012, article 4
  23. ^ Self-Defense Forces Act of 1954
  24. ^ Administrative Litigation Act, article 27
  25. ^ Nakata, Hiroko (6 March 2007). "The prime minister's official hub". The Japan Times Online. The Japan Times. Retrieved 21 October 2007.
  26. ^ a b "A virtual tour of the former Kantei – Annex etc. – The Residential Area". Prime Minister of Japan. Retrieved 21 October 2007.
  27. ^ 政府専用機にそもそも「専用機材」は必要なのか?, Newsweek Japan, Feb 25, 2011.
  28. ^ Conferment of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Juichii (Junior First Rank) and conferment of the Order of the Chrysanthemum and the Grand Cordon of the Chrysanthemum [Regarding the awarding of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the first rank and the awarding of the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum and Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum]. (Press release). Prime Minister's Office of Japan. 11 July 2022. Archived from the original on 11 July 2022. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  • Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha Limited, Tokyo 1991, ISBN 4-7674-2015-6