Prime Minister of Japan

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Prime Minister of Japan
Emblem of the Prime Minister of Japan.svg
Emblem of the Prime Minister of Japan
Shinzo Abe Official.jpg
Shinzō Abe

since 26 December 2012
Style His Excellency
Residence Kantei
Nominator National Diet
AppointerHM The Emperor
Term length Four years or fewer, renewable indefinitely. [lower-alpha 1]
Inaugural holder Itō Hirobumi
Formation22 December 1885;133 years ago (1885-12-22)
Imperial Seal of Japan.svg
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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 head 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.

The head of government is either the highest or second highest official in the executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, who often presides over a cabinet, a group of ministers or secretaries who lead executive departments. "Head of government" is often differentiated from "head of state", as they may be separate positions, individuals, or roles depending on the country.

Japan Island country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

Imperial Investiture Japanese inauguration ceremony

The Imperial Investiture is an official inauguration ceremony whereby the Emperor of Japan formally appoints the designated Chief Justice or Prime Minister of Japan to office.



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.

The Constitution of the Empire of Japan, known informally as the Meiji Constitution, was the constitution of the Empire of Japan which had the proclamation on February 11, 1889, and had enacted since November 29, 1890 until May 2, 1947. Enacted after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, it provided for a form of mixed constitutional and absolute monarchy, based jointly on the Prussian and British models. In theory, the Emperor of Japan was the supreme leader, and the Cabinet, whose Prime Minister would be elected by a Privy Council, were his followers; in practice, the Emperor was head of state but the Prime Minister was the actual head of government. Under the Meiji Constitution, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet were not necessarily chosen from the elected members of the group.

Constitution Set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed

A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity, and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.

<i>Ritsuryō</i> historical law system based on the philosophies of Confucianism and Chinese Legalism in Japan

Ritsuryō (律令) is the historical law system based on the philosophies of Confucianism and Chinese Legalism in Japan. The political system in accord to Ritsuryō is called "Ritsuryō-sei" (律令制). Kyaku (格) are amendments of Ritsuryō, Shiki (式) are enactments.

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.

Daijō-daijin Japanese Imperial court position

The Daijō-daijin or Dajō-daijin was the head of the Daijō-kan during and after the Nara period and briefly under the Meiji Constitution. Equivalent to the Chinese Taishi (太師).

Daijō-kan Both the highest organ of Japans pre-modern Imperial government under Ritsuryō legal system during and after the Nara period, and/or the highest organ of Japans government briefly restored to power after the Meiji Restoration

The Daijō-kan or Dajō-kan, also known as the Great Council of State, was (i) (Daijō-kan) the highest organ of Japan's premodern Imperial government under Ritsuryō legal system during and after the Nara period or (ii) (Dajō-kan) the highest organ of Japan's government briefly restored to power after the Meiji Restoration, which was replaced by the Cabinet.

Heian period last major division of classical Japanese history (794 to 1185), named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto

The Heian period is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185. The period is named after the capital city of Heian-kyō, or modern Kyōto. It is the period in Japanese history when Buddhism, Taoism and other Chinese influences were at their height. The Heian period is also considered the peak of the Japanese imperial court and noted for its art, especially poetry and literature. Although the Imperial House of Japan had power on the surface, the real power was in the hands of the Fujiwara clan, a powerful aristocratic family who had intermarried with the imperial family. Many emperors actually had mothers from the Fujiwara family. Heian (平安) means "peace" in Japanese.

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 2nd longest serving Prime Minister to date.

Shinzō Abe Prime Minister of Japan

Shinzō Abe is a Japanese politician who has been Prime Minister of Japan and President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) since 2012. He previously served as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007 and Chief Cabinet Secretary from 2005 to 2006. In late August 2019, Abe surpassed Eisaku Satō to become the second-longest serving prime minister in Japanese history, and the longest-serving Prime Minister in post-war Japan. Abe will surpass this milestone and become the longest serving incumbent if he is still in office on 19 November 2019.


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]

National Diet legislature of Japan

The National Diet is Japan's bicameral legislature. It is composed of a lower house called the House of Representatives, and an upper house, called the House of Councillors. Both houses of the Diet are directly elected under parallel voting systems. In addition to passing laws, the Diet is formally responsible for selecting the Prime Minister. The Diet was first convened as the Imperial Diet in 1889 as a result of adopting the Meiji Constitution. The Diet took its current form in 1947 upon the adoption of the post-war constitution, which considers it the highest organ of state power. The National Diet Building is in Nagatachō, Chiyoda, Tokyo.

Two-round system voting system used to elect a single winner where a second round of voting is used if no candidate wins an absolute majority in the first round

The two-round system is a voting method used to elect a single winner, where the voter casts a single vote for their chosen candidate. However, if no candidate receives the required number of votes, then those candidates having less than a certain proportion of the votes, or all but the two candidates receiving the most votes, are eliminated, and a second round of voting is held.

Emperor of Japan Head of state of Japan

The Emperor of Japan is the head of the Imperial Family and the head of state of Japan. Under the 1947 constitution, he is defined as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people." Historically, he is also the highest authority of the Shinto religion. In Japanese, the emperor is called Tennō, literally "heavenly sovereign". In English, the use of the term Mikado for the emperor was once common, but is now considered obsolete.

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.


Japan Self-Defense Forces combined military forces of Japan

The Japan Self-Defense Forces, JSDF, also referred to as the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), Japan Defense Forces (JDF), or the Japanese armed forces, are the unified military forces of Japan that were established in 1954, and are controlled by the Ministry of Defense. The JSDF ranked as the world's fourth most-powerful military in conventional capabilities in a Credit Suisse report in 2015 and it has the world's eighth-largest military budget. In recent years they have been engaged in international peacekeeping operations including UN peacekeeping.

Yasuhiro Nakasone 45th Prime Minister of Japan

Yasuhiro Nakasone is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan and President of the Liberal Democratic Party from 1982 to 1987. He was a member of the House of Representatives for more than 50 years. He is best known for pushing through the privatization of state-owned companies, and for helping to revitalize Japanese nationalism during and after his term as prime minister. He turned 100 on 27 May 2018, and as of 2019, he is the oldest living state leader at the age of 101.


Constitutional roles

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 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 Soridaijinkantei2.jpg
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. [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.

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  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. 1 2 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. 1 2 "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 (February 4, 2010). "Toyota's Influence Looms Over Japan". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on May 29, 2015. Retrieved May 13, 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. August 12, 2014. Retrieved August 13, 2014.