The History of Japanese Royalty: From Imperialism to Instagram

Japanese Royals have made it to the Gram! Japan's imperial family aka the Imperial Household Agency (IHA) under current emperor Naruhito has gracefully stepped into the world of social media with its low-key and cautious debut on Instagram with their official Instagram account, @kunaicho_jp.

The account was announced a week ago but was set to private until Monday. The aim was to bridge the gap between generations and shed their reputation for being reserved. And guess what? They have garnered nearly half a million followers!

The imperial Instagram maintains a strict aura of formality, featuring only factual captions and prohibiting public engagement, allowing likes but not comments. Its content primarily revolves around the public appearances of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako over the past three months, elegantly showcasing the official duties, from public appearances and museum visits to meetings with dignitaries from other nations.

royal family of japan instagram account

The very first post features Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako, and their daughter Princess Aiko ushering in the New Year with contagious smiles. 

first instagram post

However, the account refrains from following any other users and has yet to explore Instagram Stories. They have chosen a beige and grey formal aesthetic exuding a sense of harmony and civilizedness. 

But why did the royals join too late? 

The negative implications of social media on the image and reputation of royal families made the Japanese Imperials from using social media for over a decade. 

Secondly their Royal reputation. Japanese people have a great respect for the Royal Family. In the nation, criticising the emperor is a taboo. Imperial Household has diligently maintained the Crown family's reputation, resulting in them being widely perceived as moral exemplars by the Japanese people.

Lastly, the Royal Family has been involved in a recent scandal involving Mako Komuro, the niece of the Emperor, and her commoner husband, the couple received severe criticism on social media, created a delay in their marriage and raised questions about royal privacy. They also faced their own social media storm. 

ex princess Mako Kamuro and his commoner husband

So now, A strategic decision was made to share details about the family's official responsibilities on Instagram, the preferred platform for the younger generation, in order to bridge the generational divide. Experts have voiced their optimism, arguing that social media could help dispel any false information about the royal family and help the family connect with the public. 

The Royal Family of Japan: historical Background 

Let's go back to the history of the the Japanese imperial lineage, which is thought to be the oldest hereditary royal family in the world, having ruled since Emperor Sujin's reign began in 97 B.C. Two ancient chronicles, the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki, assert the divine origins of the Japanese Imperial Family. Emperor Jimmu, regarded as the first emperor of Japan, inaugurated a period of divine dominance and symbolic power, as well as laying the foundation for the royal dynasty. Since then, Japan has seen the rise of many emperors.

In 1889, Japan enacted a new constitution that gave elected officials political power and gave the monarch ‘symbolic authority status’. According to the Japanese Constitution, the monarchy's official functions are ceremonial; they are not authorised to hold public office, have any political influence, or make public declarations. 

family tree of japnese royalty

Then, Emperor Hirohito denied his divinity following Japan's surrender in World War II. Under the Allied occupation that followed Japan's defeat in World War II, the imperial system experienced substantial modifications. The emperor's function was recast as a state symbol with no political power, representing the country's shift towards democracy and pacifism. 

It was during Emperor Akihito's reign, the imperial family modernised and connected with the people, notably by addressing the nation during crises like Fukushima. Akihito, Japan's 125th emperor, abdicated in April 2019 due to age and health, the first monarch to do so since 1817. 

Emperor Naruhito, the eldest son of former Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, assumed the Chrysanthemum Throne in 2019, succeeding his highly popular father, who abdicated after over two centuries. Naruhito, who began the Reiwa era in Japan, has pledged to honour his father's legacy. 

emperor Naruhito

Naruhito’s daughter, Princess Toshi, born in 2001, cannot inherit the throne due to gender restrictions and roles of females in the royal family. Crown Prince Akishino, Naruhito's younger brother, is next in line, holding a doctorate in ornithology.


Japan's centuries-old monarchy taking over social media, is where history and technology combine to create a wonderful modern blend. The royal family has demonstrated their dedication to adopting modern methods by joining Instagram, a big step into the digital age. Japan has a deep-rooted respect for the royal family, so striking a careful balance between respect and relatability may be necessary while making the switch to social media. 

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