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This 1899 impression of a seated Emperor Tenji suggests a special chair, but the Imperial throne is more than a functional object.

The Chrysanthemum Throne (皇位 kōi ?, lit. "Imperial Throne") is the English term used to identify the throne of the Emperor of Japan. The term can refer to very specific seating, as in the raised thrones constructed in the Shishin-den for Emperor Shōwa and Empress Kōjun on November 10, 1928 (Shōwa 3, on the 11th day of the 10th month).[1] The term can refer to that specific chair which is used only by the Emperor in the Diet of Japan during ceremonies associated with the delivery of his Speech from the Throne.[2] In an abstract sense, the "Chrysanthemum Throne" also refers rhetorically to the head of state[3] and to the monarchy itself.[4][5][6][7][8][9]



The Chrysanthemum Throne is the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world.[10] In much the same sense as the British Crown, the Chrysanthemum Throne becomes an abstract metonymic concept which represents the monarch and the legal authority for the existence of the government.[11]

Takamikura, 1917

Unlike its British counterpart, the concepts of Japanese monarchy evolved differently before 1947 when there was, for example, no perceived separation of the property of the nation-state from the person and personal holdings of the emperor.

According to tradition, the Japanese monarchy is said to have been founded in 660 BC by Emperor Jimmu and the current Emperor is the 125th monarch to occupy the Chrysanthemum Throne. The extant historical records only reach back to Emperor Ōjin, who is considered to have reigned in the early 5th century.[12]

This Meiji period throne room was last used by Hirohito. The room and its twin thrones were destroyed in World War II.

In the 1920s, Hirohito served as Regent during several years of his father's reign, when Emperor Taishō was physically unable to fulfill his Imperial duties. However, the Regent Prince lacked the symbolic powers of the throne which he could only attain after his father's death.[13] Historically, the emperor (Japanese: tennō or 天皇, “heavenly sovereign”) was believed to have acted as a high priest in the ancestral religion Shintō, although his claim to divine origin from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu was formally renounced after World War II.[14]

The imperial throne used in accession ceremonies for the current emperor is kept at Kyoto Imperial Palace in the Shishinden

The current Constitution of Japan considers the Emperor as a "symbol of the state and the unity of its people." The modern emperor is a constitutional monarch.[15]

The metonymic meanings of "Chrysanthemum Throne" encompass the modern monarchy and the chronological list of legendary and historical monarchs of Japan. It is a term with fungible uses.

Rhetorical usage

This flexible English term is also a rhetorical trope. Depending on context, the Chrysanthemum Throne can be construed as a metonymy, which is a rhetorical device for an allusion relying on proximity or correspondence, as for example referring to actions of the Emperor or as "actions of the Chrysanthemum Throne."[16] The Chrysanthemum throne is also understood as a synecdoche, which is related to metonymy and metaphor in suggesting a play on words by identifying a closely related conceptualization, e.g.,

This imagined rendering of the Japanese emperor receiving a military delegation from France was published in Paris in 1873, revealing more about European perceptions than about the reality in Tokyo.
  • referring to a part with the name of the whole, such as "Chrysanthemum Throne" for the mystic process of transferring Imperial authority -- as in:
December 18, 876 (Jōgan 18, on the 29th day of the 11th month): In the 18th year of Emperor Seiwa's reign (清和天皇18年), he ceded the Chrysanthemum Throne to his son, which meant that the young child received the succession (‘‘senso’’). Shortly thereafter, Emperor Yōzei is said to have formally acceded to the throne (‘‘sokui’’).[17]
  • referring to the whole with the name of a part, such as "Chrysanthemum Throne" for the serial symbols and ceremonies of enthronement -- as in:
January 20, 877 (Gangyō 1, on the 3rd day of the 1st month) Yōzei was formally installed on the Chrysanthemum Throne;[18] and the beginning of a new nengō was proclaimed.[19]
  • referring to the general with the specific, such as "Chrysanthemum Throne" for Emperorship or senso -- as in:
Before Emperor Yōzei ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne, his personal name (his imina)[20] was Sadakira Shinnō (貞明親王).[21]
  • referring to the specific with the general, such as "Chrysanthemum Throne" for the short reign of Emperor Yōzei or equally as well for the ambit of the Imperial system.[22]

During the State Visit in 1970 of the Emperor and Empress of Japan to the United Kingdom, the Times reported that "last night’s dinner was as informal as it could get when the House of Windsor entertains the Chrysanthemum Throne."[23]

See also

H.M. Emperor Akihito sits in a chair as he talks informally with US Vice President Cheney; however, this piece of furniture remains only a chair, not becoming a throne, even in a formal setting inside the Imperial Palace.


  1. ^ Ponsonby-Fane, Richard. (1959). The Imperial House of Japan, p. 337.
  2. ^ McLaren, Walter Wallace. (1916). A Political History of Japan During the Meiji Era - 1867-1912, p. 361.
  3. ^ Williams, David. (1858). The preceptor's assistant, or, Miscellaneous questions in general history, literature, and science, p. 153.
  4. ^ Shûji, Takashina. "An Empress on the Chrysanthemum Throne?" Japan Echo. Vol. 31, No. 6, December 2004.
  5. ^ Green, Shane. "Chrysanthemum Throne a Closely Guarded Secret," Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales). December 7, 2002.
  6. ^ Spector, Ronald. "The Chrysanthemum Throne," (book review of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix). New York Times. November 19, 2000.
  7. ^ McNeill, David. "The Sadness Behind the Chrysanthemum Throne," The Independent (London). May 22, 2004.
  8. ^ McCurry, Justin. "Baby Boy Ends 40-year Wait for Heir to Chrysanthemum Throne," The Guardian (London). September 6, 2006.
  9. ^ "The Chrysanthemum Throne," Hello Magazine.
  10. ^ McNeill, David. "The Girl who May Sit on Chrysanthemum Throne," The Independent (London). February 23, 2005.
  11. ^ Williams, David. (1858). The preceptor's assistant, or, Miscellaneous questions in general history, literature and science, p. 153.
  12. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, pp. 19-21; Varley, Paul. (1980). Jinnō Shōtōki, pp. 103-110; Aston, William. (1998). Nihongi, pp. 254-271.
  13. ^ Post, Jerrold et al. (1995). When Illness Strikes the Leader, p. 194.
  14. ^ "Japan's Emperor: A Mortal Man," New York Times. January 7, 1989
  15. ^ Weisman, Steven R. "Japan Enthrones Emperor Today in Old Rite With New Twist," New York Times. November 12, 1990
  16. ^ Martin, Peter. (1997). The Chrysanthemum Throne, p. 132.
  17. ^ Titsigh, p. 122; Brown, Delmer et al. (1979). Gukanshō, pp. 288; Varley, p. 44. [A distinct act of senso is unrecognized prior to Emperor Tenji; and all sovereigns except Jitō, Yōzei, Go-Toba, and Fushimi have senso and sokui in the same year until the reign of Go-Murakami;]
  18. ^ Note: The enthronement ceremony (sokui) is something of a misnomer in English since no throne is used, but the throne is used in a larger and more public ceremony that follows later. See Berry, Mary Elizabeth. (1989). Hideyoshi, p. 245 n6.
  19. ^ Titsingh, p. 122.
  20. ^ Brown, p. 264. [Up until the time of Emperor Jomei, the personal names of the emperors (their imina) were very long and people did not generally use them. The number of characters in each name diminished after Jomei's reign.]
  21. ^ Titsingh, p. 121; Varley, p. 170.
  22. ^ Watts, Jonathan. "The emperor's new roots: The Japanese emperor has finally laid to rest rumours that he has Korean blood, by admitting that it is true," The Guardian (London). 28 December 2001.
  23. ^ Hamilton, Alan. "Palace small talk problem solved: royal guest is a goby fish fanatic," The Times (London). May 30, 2007.]


External links

  • NYPL Digital Galery: Trono del imperator del Giapone. by Andrea Bernieri (artist). Source: Ferrario, Giulio (1823). Il costume antico e moderno, o, storia del governo, della milizia, della religione, delle arti, scienze ed usanze di tutti i popoli antichi e moderni. Firenze : Batelli.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

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Chrysanthemum Throne


Chrysanthemum Throne

  1. The Japanese monarchy.


  • Chinese: 菊花紋章, 菊花纹章 (Júhuā Wén Zhāng)
  • Indonesian: Takhta Krisantemum
  • Japanese: 菊花紋章 (kikukamonshō, kikkamonshō)
  • Korean: 국화 문장 (gukhwa munjang)
  • Malay: Takhta Bunga Kekwa
  • Polish: Chryzantemowy tron m.
  • Russian: Трон хризантемы (Tron khrizantɛ́my) m.
  • Ukrainian: Трон хризантеми (Tron khryzantemy)


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