Japan Data

The Longest-Reigning Japanese Emperors

Culture Imperial Family

Emperor Shōwa and Emperor Meiji stand out among Japanese rulers for the length of their respective reigns. 

When Emperor Akihito abdicates on April 30, he will have reigned for 30 years and 3 months. This is the tenth longest rule of any Japanese emperor to accede to the throne since the Asuka period (593–710). Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) is the longest-reigning emperor at 62 years, followed by Emperor Meiji at 45 years and 6 months. Historically, however, many emperors ruled for less than 10 years.

Traditional genealogy includes many emperors from before the Asuka period who were said to have ruled for more than 30 years, but there is either insufficient historical evidence for the lengths of their reigns or they are considered purely legendary figures.

Longest Reigning Japanese Emperors Since 593

Emperor Period of reign Length of reign
Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) 1926–1989 62 years
Emperor Meiji 1867–1912 45 years, 6 months
Emperor Kōkaku 1779–1817 37 years, 4 months
Emperor Go-Tsuchimikado 1464–1500 36 years, 2 months
Emperor Go-Hanazono 1428–1464 35 years, 11 months
Empress Suiko 593–628 35 years, 3 months
Emperor Daigo 897–930 33 years, 2 months
Emperor Go-Nara 1526–1557 31 years, 3 months
Emperor Go-Komatsu 1382–1412 30 years, 4 months
Emperor Akihito 1989–2019 30 years, 3 months

Blue shading indicates emperors who abdicated. Created by Nippon.com based on materials published by the Imperial Household Agency, the Cabinet Office, and other organizations.

It has been relatively common for emperors to abdicate through Japanese history, and 58 are on record as having done so. Emperor Kōkaku was the most recent, in 1817, however, so it has been more than 200 years since the last time it happened. The current Imperial House Law, introduced after World War II, and its predecessor, enacted during the Meiji era (1868–1912), allowed no provision for emperors to step down during their lifetimes. This meant that special legislation was required to allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Emperor Shōwa and Emperor Meiji. © Jiji.)

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