Prime Minister of Japan

The Prime Minister of Japan (内閣総理大臣 Naikaku-sōri-daijin, or Shushō (首相)) is the head of government of Japan. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the National Diet and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office. He is the chairman of the Cabinet and appoints and dismisses the other Ministers of State. The literal translation of the Japanese name for the office is Minister for the Comprehensive Administration of (or the Presidency over) the Cabinet.

Prime Minister of Japan
Emblem of the Prime Minister of Japan
Official emblem
of the Prime Minister
Shinzō Abe Official
Shinzō Abe

since December 26, 2012
StyleHis Excellency
NominatorNational Diet
AppointerHIM The Emperor
Term lengthSince 1947: Four years or fewer, renewable indefinitely.[a]
Inaugural holderItō Hirobumi
Formation22 December 1885


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.

Under this system, the Daijō-daijin (太政大臣, Chancellor of the Realm)[1] 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 Prime Minister,[2] four years before the enactment of the Meiji Constitution, which mentions neither the Cabinet nor the position of Prime Minister explicitly.[3][4] It took its current form with the adoption of the Constitution of Japan in 1947.

To date, 62 people have served this position. The current Prime Minister is Shinzō Abe, who re-took office on December 26, 2012. He is the first former Prime Minister to return to office since 1948, and the 5th longest serving Prime Minister to date.


The Prime Minister is designated 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 candidate. 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.[5] The candidate is then presented with his or her commission, and formally appointed to office by the Emperor.[6]

In practice, 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.


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


Constitutional roles

  • Exercises "control and supervision" over the entire executive branch.[7]
  • Presents bills to the Diet on behalf of the Cabinet.[8]
  • Signs laws and Cabinet orders (along with other members of the Cabinet).[9]
  • Appoints all Cabinet ministers, and can dismiss them at any time.[10]
  • May permit legal action to be taken against Cabinet ministers.[11]
  • Must make reports on domestic and foreign relations to the Diet.[8]
  • Must report to the Diet upon demand to provide answers or explanations.[12]
  • May advise the Emperor to dissolve the Diet's House of Representatives.[13]

Statutory roles

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 signature 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.


Standard of the Prime Minister of Japan

Standard of the Prime Minister

Go-shichi no kiri crest 2

Mon (crest) of the Prime Minister

Official office and 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.[17] The old Kantei was then converted into the Official Residence, or Kōtei (公邸).[18] The Kōtei lies to the southwest of the Kantei, and is linked by a walkway.[18]


The Prime Minister of Japan travels in a Lexus LS 600h L,[19] the official transport for the head of government, or an unmodified Toyota Century escorted by a police motorcade of numerous Toyota Celsiors.

For long distance air travel, Japan maintains two Boeing 747-400 aircraft mostly for the Prime Minister of Japan, the Emperor, Empress and other members of the Imperial Family, operated by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

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).[20]

The aircraft were constructed at the Boeing factory at the same time as the U.S. Air Force One VC-25s, though the U.S. aircraft were built to the 747-200 design, while the Japanese aircraft were built to the more contemporary 747-400 design. Both Japanese aircraft were delivered in 1990.[21] The 747s will be replaced by new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in fiscal year 2019.[22]

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; the Collar of the order was last awarded posthumously to former Prime Minister Eisaku Satō in June 1975. The Grand Cordon has typically been posthumously awarded; the most recent such award was to Ryutaro Hashimoto in July 2006. Currently, Yasuhiro Nakasone is the only living former Prime Minister to hold the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum, which he received in 1997.

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 Sato Eisaku 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).

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. ^ Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha Limited, ISBN 4-7674-2015-6
  2. ^ Legal framework for Prime Minister and Cabinet in the Empire: Dajōkan proclamation No. 69 of December 22, 1885 (内閣職権, naikaku shokken), later replaced by Imperial edict No. 135 of 1889 (内閣官制, naikaku kansei) in effect until 1947
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ Kantei: Cabinet System of Japan
  5. ^ Article 67 of the Constitution of Japan
  6. ^ Article 6 of the Constitution of Japan
  7. ^ Article 5 of the Constitution of Japan
  8. ^ a b Article 72 of the Constitution of Japan
  9. ^ Article 74 of the Constitution of Japan
  10. ^ Article 68 of the Constitution of Japan
  11. ^ Article 75 of the Constitution of Japan
  12. ^ Article 63 of the Constitution of Japan
  13. ^ Article 7 of the Constitution of Japan
  14. ^ Cabinet Act2012, article 4
  15. ^ Self-Defense Forces Act of 1954
  16. ^ Administrative Litigation Act, article 27
  17. ^ Nakata, Hiroko (March 6, 2007). "The prime minister's official hub". The Japan Times Online. The Japan Times. Retrieved October 21, 2007.
  18. ^ a b "A virtual tour of the former Kantei – Annex etc. – The Residential Area". Prime Minister of Japan. Retrieved October 21, 2007.
  19. ^ Sanchanta, Mariko; Inada, Miho (4 February 2010). "Toyota's Influence Looms Over Japan". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 29 May 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Hardesty, 2005
  22. ^ "Japan chooses Boeing 777-300ER as government's official jet". Japan Times. Jiji. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  • Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha Limited, Tokyo 1991, ISBN 4-7674-2015-6

External links

1887 in Japan

Events in the year 1887 in Japan.

1922 in Japan

Events from the year 1922 in Japan. It corresponds to Taishō 11 (大正11年) in the Japanese calendar.

1924 in Japan

Events in the year 1924 in Japan. It corresponds to Taishō 13 (大正13年) in the Japanese calendar.

1937 in Japan

Events in the year 1937 in Japan.

1959 in Japan

Events in the year 1959 in Japan.

Deputy Prime Minister of Japan

The Deputy Prime Minister of Japan (副総理, Fuku-sōri) is a senior member of the Cabinet of Japan. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not a permanent position, existing only at the discretion of the Prime Minister.

Deputy prime minister possesses no special powers as such, though they will always have particular responsibilities in government. They do not automatically succeed the Prime Minister, should the latter be incapacitated or resign from the leadership of his or her political party. In practice, however, the designation of someone to the role of Deputy Prime Minister may provide additional practical status within cabinet, enabling the exercise of de facto, if not de jure, power.

The current Deputy Prime Minister is Tarō Asō, who took the post on 26 December 2012.

Elections in Japan

The Japanese political process has three types of elections: general elections to the House of Representatives held every four years (unless the lower house is dissolved earlier), elections to the House of Councillors held every three years to choose one-half of its members, and local elections held every four years for offices in prefectures, cities, and villages. Elections are supervised by election committees at each administrative level under the general direction of the Central Election Administration Committee, an attached organization to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The minimum voting age in Japan's non-compulsory electoral system was reduced from twenty to eighteen years in June 2016. Voters must satisfy a three-month residency requirement before being allowed to cast a ballot.

For those seeking office, there are two sets of age requirements: twenty-five years of age for admission to the House of Representatives and most local offices, and thirty years of age for admission to the House of Councillors and the prefectural governorship. Each deposit for candidacy is 3 million yen (30 thousand dollars) for single-seat constituency and 6 million yen (60 thousand dollars) for proportional representation.

Hideki Tojo

Hideki Tojo (Kyūjitai: 東條 英機; Shinjitai: 東条 英機; Tōjō Hideki ; December 30, 1884 – December 23, 1948) was a Japanese statesman and general of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), the leader of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, and the 27th Prime Minister of Japan during much of World War II, from October 17, 1941, to July 22, 1944. He is best known for his actions as Prime Minister during the war, such as being responsible for ordering the attack on Pearl Harbor and many war actions, which initiated war between Japan and the United States, although planning for it had begun in April 1941, before he entered office. After the end of the war, Tojo was arrested, condemned and sentenced to death for war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, and hanged on December 23, 1948.

Keisuke Okada

Keisuke Okada (岡田 啓介, Okada Keisuke, 20 January 1868 – 7 October 1952) was an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, politician and the 31st Prime Minister of Japan from 8 July 1934 to 9 March 1936.

Kuroda Kiyotaka

Count Kuroda Kiyotaka (黒田 清隆, November 9, 1840 – August 23, 1900), also known as Kuroda Ryōsuke (黒田 了介), was a Japanese politician of the Meiji era. He was the second Prime Minister of Japan from April 30, 1888, to October 25, 1889.

List of Japanese people

This is a list of notable Japanese people.

If a sub-list is indicated, names should be placed in the sub-list instead of this list.

To be included in this list, the person must have a Wikipedia article showing they are Japanese.

List of Prime Ministers of Japan

This is a list of Prime Ministers of Japan, including those of the Empire of Japan, from when the first Japanese prime minister (in the modern sense), Itō Hirobumi, took office in 1885, until the present day. The office is currently held by Shinzō Abe. Those Prime Ministers under the Meiji Constitution had a mandate from the Emperor. The "electoral mandates" shown are for the lower house of the Imperial Diet that was not constitutionally guaranteed to have any influence on the appointment of the Prime Minister.

Multiple terms in office, consecutive or otherwise, are listed and counted in the first column (administration number) and the second column counts individuals. For example, Hatoyama Yukio is listed as the 60th individual to hold the office of prime minister, while his first cabinet is the 93rd since Itō Hirobumi.

List of spouses of Prime Ministers of Japan

The Spouse of the Prime Minister of Japan (内閣総理大臣夫人, Naikakusōridaijinfujin) is the wife or husband of the Prime Minister of Japan.

Masayoshi Ito

Masayoshi Ito (伊東 正義, Itō Masayoshi, 15 December 1913 – 21 May 1994) was a Japanese political figure. He served as acting prime minister of Japan in 1980 after the sudden death of Masayoshi Ōhira. He then served as foreign minister of Japan from 1980 to 1981.


Sakurakai, or Cherry Blossom Society (桜会, Sakurakai) was an ultranationalist secret society established by young officers within the Imperial Japanese Army in September 1930, with the goal of reorganizing the state along totalitarian militaristic lines, via a military coup d'état if necessary. Their avowed goal was a Shōwa Restoration, which they claimed would restore the Emperor Hirohito to his rightful place, free of party politics and evil bureaucrats in a new military dictatorship.The Sakurakai was led by Imperial Japanese Army Lieutenant Colonel Kingoro Hashimoto, then chief of the Russian section of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff and Captain Isamu Cho with the support of Sadao Araki. The society began with about ten members, active-duty field grade officers of the Army General Staff, and expanded to include regimental-grade and company-grade officers, so that its membership increased to more than 50 by February 1931, and possibly up to several hundred by October 1931. One prominent leader was Kuniaki Koiso, future Prime Minister of Japan.

"The Sakura group sought political reform: the elimination of party government by a coup d'etat and the establishment of a new cabinet based upon state socialism, in order to stamp out Japan's allegedly corrupt politics, economy, and thought."Twice in 1931 (the March Incident and the Imperial Colors Incident), the Sakurakai and civilian ultranationalist elements attempted to overthrow the government. With the arrest of its leadership after the Imperial Colors Incident, the Sakurakai was dissolved.

Many of its former members migrated to the Toseiha faction within the Army.

Takeo Miki

Takeo Miki (三木 武夫, Miki Takeo, 17 March 1907 – 14 November 1988) was a Japanese politician who served as the 41st Prime Minister of Japan from 1974 until 1976.

Tarō Asō

Tarō Asō (麻生 太郎, Asō Tarō, born 20 September 1940) is a Japanese politician who is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. Asō was the 59th Prime Minister of Japan, serving from September 2008 to September 2009. He was also a member of the Japanese shooting team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Asō has served in the House of Representatives since 1979. He was Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2007, and was Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) briefly in 2007 and in 2008. He was President of the LDP from 2008 to 2009. His successor, Sadakazu Tanigaki, was chosen on 28 September 2009.

After the LDP's victory in the 2012 general election under Shinzō Abe he was appointed to the cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and State Minister for Financial Services. He has held the positions since 26 December 2012.

Toshiki Kaifu

Toshiki Kaifu (海部 俊樹, Kaifu Toshiki, born 2 January 1931) is a Japanese politician who was the 76th and 77th Prime Minister of Japan from 1989 to 1991.

Wakatsuki Reijirō

Baron Wakatsuki Reijirō (若槻 禮次郎, 21 March 1866 – 20 November 1949) was a Japanese politician and the 25th and 28th Prime Minister of Japan.

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