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  • Japanese: 華族 (kazoku)

The kazoku was a Western-style peerage or aristocracy created by the Meiji government in 1869/6 as part of a broader restructuring of social classes.

Members of the kazoku were chiefly former daimyô and court nobility, alongside the former royal family of Ryûkyû. They held titles such as Marquis (侯爵, kôshaku), Baron (男爵, danshaku), Count (伯爵, hakushaku), and Duke (公爵, kôshaku), based on ancient Chinese aristocratic titles. Former daimyô were guaranteed stipends at 10% of their former domain's official kokudaka, regardless of their post in the new government, and indeed regardless of whether the domains themselves survived; as a result, a number of kazoku, including Hachisuka Mochiaki of Tokushima, petitioned the Emperor for the abolition of the han in 1871.

Within the new social hierarchy, which persisted until 1945, the kazoku were second only in prestige to the Imperial family. Below them were two ranks of elites, the shizoku (士族, former samurai), and the sotsu (卒, former low-ranking samurai). Divisions between peasants, townsmen (chônin), and other types of commoners were officially erased at this time, transforming all into simply citizens, or Imperial subjects (国民, kokumin).


  • Mark Ravina, Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan, Stanford University Press (1999), 203.