House of Peers (Japan)

For other uses, see House of Peers (disambiguation).
House of Peers

Coat of arms or logo

Prince Fumimaro Konoe addressing the House of Peers in 1936, with the imperial throne in the background
Established 6 March 1871
Disbanded 22 May 1947
Succeeded by House of Councillors
Seats 251 (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

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).


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 (daimyo) 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 prince (or duke), marquis, count, viscount, and baron. 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.

Ito 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).


In 1889, the House of Peers Ordinance established the House of Peers and its composition. For the first session of the Imperial Diet (1889–1890), there were 145 hereditary members and 106 imperial appointees and high taxpayers, for a total of 251 members.

With the creation of new peers, additional seats for members of the former Korean nobility and four seats for representatives from The Japan Imperial Academy, membership peaked at 409 seats by 1938.[1] In its 92nd and final session, the number of members was 373.


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

  1. The Crown Prince (Kōtaishi) and the Imperial Grandson and Heir Presumptive (Kōtaison) from the age of 18, with the term of office for life.
  2. All Imperial Princes (shinnō) and lesser Princes of the Imperial Blood (ō) over the age of 20, with the term of office for life.
  3. All Princes and Marquises over the age of 25 (raised to 30 in 1925), with the term of office for life.
  4. 18 Counts, 66 Viscounts and 66 Barons over the age of 25 (raised to 30 in 1925), for seven-year terms.
  5. 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
  6. 4 members of the Imperial Academy over the age of 30, elected by the academicians and nominated by the Emperor, for seven-year terms.
  7. 66 elected representatives of the 6000 highest taxpayers, over the age of 30 and for seven-year terms.


Postwar dissolution

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.

Presidents of the House of Peers

No. Name Portrait Title Term of Office Sessions
Start End
1 Itō Hirobumi Count (hakushaku) 24 October 1890 20 July 1891 1
2 Hachisuka Mochiaki Marquis (kōshaku) 20 July 1891 3 October 1896 2–9
3 Konoe Atsumaro Prince (kōshaku) 3 October 1896 4 December 1903 10–18
4 Tokugawa Iesato Prince (kōshaku) 4 December 1903 9 June 1933 19–64
5 Fumimaro Konoe Prince (kōshaku) 9 June 1933 17 June 1937 65–70
6 Yorinaga Matsudaira Count (hakushaku) 17 June 1937 11 October 1944 71–85
7 Tokugawa Kuniyuki Prince (kōshaku) 11 October 1944 19 June 1946 86–89
8 Tokugawa Iemasa Prince (kōshaku) 19 June 1946 2 May 1947 90–92


  1. p. 109, "Government: The Imperial Diet - House of Peers," Japan Year Book 1938-1939, Kenkyusha Press, Foreign Association of Japan, Tokyo
  2. p. 109, "Government: The Imperial Diet - House of Peers," Japan Year Book 1938-1939, Kenkyusha Press, Foreign Association of Japan, Tokyo

See also

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