The Emperor of Japan is the series of imperial rulers of Japan. Since the establishment of the first shogunate in 1199, the Emperors of Japan have rarely taken on a role as supreme battlefield commander, unlike many Western monarchs. Japanese Emperors have nearly always been controlled by external political forces, to varying degrees. In fact, between 1192 and 1867, the shōguns, or their shikken regents in Kamakura (1203–1333), were the de facto rulers of Japan, although they were nominally appointed by the Emperor. After the Meiji Restoration in 1867, the Emperor was the embodiment of all sovereign power in the realm, as enshrined in the Meiji Constitution of 1889. Since the enactment of the 1947 Constitution, he has been a ceremonial head of state without even nominal political powers.
Emperor Jimmu was the first Emperor of Japan, according to legend. His accession is traditionally dated as 660 BC. He is a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu no Mikoto, through her grandson Ninigi, as well as a descendant of the storm god Susanoo no Mikoto, a hero that defeated the eight headed serpent, Yamata no Orochi. He launched a military expedition from Hyuga near the Seto Inland Sea, captured Yamato, and established this as his center of power.
Emperor Suizei was the second Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession. Very little is known about this Emperor due to a lack of material available for further verification and study. Suizei is known as a "legendary emperor" among historians as his actual existence is disputed. A legendary account from the Kojiki states that Suizei became emperor after receiving the title of crown prince by his half brother due to his bravery regarding a murder plot. Suizei's reign started in 581 BC, he had one wife and a sole son who supposedly became the next emperor upon his death in 549 BC.
Emperor Kōmei was the 121st Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. During his reign there was much internal turmoil as a result of Japan's first major contact with the United States, which occurred under Commodore Perry in 1853 and 1854, and the subsequent forced re-opening of Japan to western nations, ending a 220-year period of national seclusion. Emperor Kōmei did not care much for anything foreign, and he opposed opening Japan to Western powers. His reign would continue to be dominated by insurrection and partisan conflicts eventually culminating in the collapse of the Tokugawa Bakufu shortly after his death and the Bakumatsu.
Emperor Meiji was the 122nd Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from February 3, 1867 until his death on July 30, 1912. He presided over a time of rapid change in the Empire of Japan, as the nation quickly changed from an isolationist feudal state to a capitalist and imperial world power, characterized by the Japanese industrial revolution. At the time of Emperor Meiji's birth in 1852, Japan was an isolated, pre-industrial, feudal country dominated by the Tokugawa shogunate and the daimyōs, who ruled over the country's more than 250 decentralized domains. He is the ruler of the Meiji Government.
Emperor Taishō was the 123rd Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 30 July 1912 until his death in 1926.
Emperor Shōwa was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 25 December 1926, until his death on 7 January 1989. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Akihito.
Akihito is the current Emperor of Japan. He succeeded to the Chrysanthemum Throne upon the death of his father Hirohito (Emperor Shōwa) on 7 January 1989. According to Japan's traditional order of succession, he is the 125th member of the world's oldest reigning dynasty. The Japanese government announced in December 2017 that Akihito will abdicate on 30 April 2019.
Naruhito is the eldest son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, which makes him the heir apparent to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Naruhito is expected to succeed his father as Emperor upon the latter's abdication on 30 April 2019. According to Japan's traditional order of succession, if he ascends the throne on that date, he will become the 126th emperor of the world's oldest monarchy. He acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne on 1 May 2019, beginning the Reiwa era, following the abdication of his father.