Economics Index and Qualifications
By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics
Former Instructor St. John's University, New York City

The Western Press Should Call the Japanese Monarch a King

The monarch of Japan is called the Emperor of Japan by the western press. He is the only monarch left in the world that is commonly called by that title. But Japan does not have an empire, so that is inaccurate, and the title emperor suggests imperialism. So it might help Japan's image and at the same time be more accurate if the Western press would call the Japanese Monarch a king rather than an emperor.

Note that this little post has nothing to do with what the Japanese press calls the Japanese monarch. They no doubt have their Japanese words which have special meaning in their culture. I am writing about what the press outside of Japan, writing to people who are not Japanese, in a language other than Japanese.

In Europe, the title emperor is above king, so it might seem like we are honoring the Japanese monarch by calling him emperor, but European monarchs have long been called king and queen even if officially they also held the title emperor or empress. The United Kingdom had a huge empire, which many Englishmen took great pride in, nevertheless, the monarch was commonly called king or queen. It is easier to deny that your policies are imperialistic if your monarch is not an emperor or empress.

As China's economy, as measured by the World Bank's Atlas Method, continues to catch up with America's, or continues to surge ahead, if measured by purchasing power parity, America will want Japan to share more fully in the burden of common defense. Demoting Japan's emperor to king may help make that more acceptable.

It has been seventy-one years since World War 2 ended, sixty-four years since the occupation ended, because McArthur held elections immediately, six years before the end of the occupation, Japan has seventy-one years of democratic experience. For a rich developed nation, ten or twenty years of successful democracy should be enough to assure the world. Japan has met any and all reasonable criteria many times over. It is in the American interest that Japan be considered an normal country.

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Last updated August 10, 2016