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The Heaven-Emperor : The mythological word in Japanese Constitution


Masanori Asami (  )

(June 1, 2005)


      The official English  translation of Japanese constitution translated by Japanese government(*1) is not correct. Japanese government exploited the lack of vocabulary of English  to translate the name of the Japanese monarch(*2) "天皇" with "the Emperor".  "天皇"  means "the Emperor from Heaven". For, according to Japanese myth, Amaterasu-Ohmikami  (Great Goddess of Sun-Shine) in heaven send her grandson Ninigi to govern human world, and the grandson of Ninigi  is the first "天皇"(*3)


     Now, there are some free translators  on the world-wide-web, I will explane it by the aid of the free translators.


Translation of the word "天皇"

    Japanese government translasted the word "天皇" with "the Emperor". (*4) That is not correct. For "the Emperor" is not eqivalent for"天皇", but "the Emperor" is eqivalent for the other Japanese word "皇帝".

And the Japanese logogram  "天" means "heaven".( Please copy & paste " 天 " into free translators(*5) and translate, then you can easily know it.)

And the Japanese logogram "皇" means "emperor". ( Please copy & paste " 皇  "into free translators and translate, then youchan easily know it.)

So, to translate the word "天皇" correctly, I have created a new English word "the Heaven-Emperor".

      In Japanese, "the Emperor" of other empires are called "皇帝"(*6). For example, the Emperor of Chinese Empire, the Emperor of Roman Empire, the Emperor of Ethiopia, the Emperor of Russian Empire, the Emperor of Indian Empire (Mughal Empire), the Emperor Napoleon of France, the Emperor of German Empire,the Emperor of Korea, and the Emperor of Austro-Hungarian Empire are all called "皇帝" in Japanese.

     So, the Japanese word "天皇" should be translated with "the Heaven-Emperor", or should be called "Tennou" acoording to Japanese pronunciation .For monarchs of Islamic Empires are usually called  "Calif", "Sultan", and "Shah", and monarch of Mongol Empire is usually called "Khan".They are seldom called "the Emperor".

     For the use of news or for the terms of history, "Tennou" may be OK.  But, for the purpose of comparing the contemporary constitutions, the Japanese word "天皇" should be translated with "the Heaven-Emperor". I will explane the reason.

     In the time of world war II, teachers in Japanese elementary school taught to pupils that "天皇" is the god(*7). And "天皇" is now stil divine in "Shinto" which is tradutional religion in Japan.(*8) And the ex-Japnese monarch (ex-Heaven-Emperor) Hirohito declared that he was not a living god(*9) in January 1 in 1946, the next year of Japanese surrender of world war II. But after the "Declaration of human being" by Hirohito, Japan still uses the word "天皇" in Japanese constitution. And ex-primeminister Mori (at that time he was the primeminister of Japan) said  "We hope the Japanese people acknowledge that Japan is a divine nation centering on 天皇" on May 15 in 2000.(*10) And according to Japanese myth, Amaterasu-Ohmikami  (Great Goddess of Sun-Shine) in heaven send her grandson Ninigi  to govern human world, and his grandson is the first "天皇". It was mental backbone for Japanese to invade other eastern Asian nation in world war II.

     To make it clear that after the "Declaration of human being"(January 1, 1946) by Hirohito(*9), Japanese constitution (promulgated on November 3, 1946) is disregard it for using the word "天皇". So, the Japanese word "天皇" in Japanese constitution should be translated with "the Heaven-Emperor".

     Terms in text of law should be abstracted words. Actually, there is the evidence that even Japanese government thought that the word  "皇帝" is suitable than the mythological word "天皇" for the term of law.  For, when Japan has good sense in deplomacy, Japanese government itself uses the word "皇帝" for Japanese, Chinese, and Korean texts of treaties(*11) instead of the word "天皇". And moreover the ex-Japnese monarch (ex-Heaven-Emperor) Hirohito declared that he was not a living god(*9) in January 1 in 1946. So, the mythological word  "天皇"("the Heaven-Emperor") should not be used in Jpanese constitution, and the term  "皇帝"("the Emperor"), or the term "国王"("the King of the country") should be used  for the Japanese monarch instead of the mythological word "天皇"("the Heaven-Emperor") in the constitution of Japan.


(*1) See the HPs below.

HP of Official website of Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet of Japan

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HP of National Diet Library of Japan

(*2) Some of Japanese legal scholar of constitution  think Japan is not a monarchy, and think there is no monarch in Japan now.

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(*3)  太安万侶 ( Ôno Yasumaro ), 「古事記」( "Kojiki") : The oldest book in Japan written in 8th century, in which Japanese history and myth were written.

English translation : Basil Hall Chamberlain "Records of Ancient Matters"

      And Japanese myth is mentioned in one of the Japanese government recognized textbooks of history for junior-highschool, so some of Chinese and Korean People get angry about it.

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(*4) Compare the sentences below.  (HP of National Diet Library of Japan)

>第1条 天皇は、日本国の象徴であり日本国民統合の象徴であつて、この地位は、主権の存する日本国民の総意に基く。 (HP of National Diet Library of Japan)

>Article 1. The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people,

>deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power.

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(*5) )

AltaVista - Babel Fish Translation )

Free Translation and language services )

SYSTRAN Language Translation Technology )

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(*6) "Emperor" at English Wikipedia

"皇帝(the Emperor)" at Japanese Wikipedia皇帝

"皇帝" at Chinese Wikipedia皇帝

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(*7) "Arahitogami" at English Wikipedia

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(*8) HP of Shinto Online Network Association.


"the Koshitsu-Shinto"(Shinto of the Imperial House)

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(*9) "Ningen-sengen  (Declaration of human being)"(January 1st, 1946) (English pge of National Diet Library HP)

> This Imperial Rescript was released on January 1, 1946.

> In it, Emperor Hirohito declares that he is not a living god and that the concept of the Emperor's divinity is not true. (Japanese page of National Diet Library HP)

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(*10) CBS News HP


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(*11) On 701 Japan decide to used the word "皇帝" to foreign countries instead of the word "天皇". For example, in Treaty of peace between Japan and the Qing Dynasty of China ("Shimonoseki-treaty"), Japan used the word "大日本国皇帝陛下".

But there are some exceptions. In 608 (in the early stage of Japanese deplomacy almost 1400 years ago), Japan send the letter to the Chinese Emperor in which the word "天皇" was used. And from 1941 to 1945 (that is the time when Japan loose the good sense of diplomacy), the word "天皇" was used in Japanese texts of treaties, the imperial ordinance of war, and the official Japnese translaton of the Instrument of Surrender. 

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