The Japanese imperial family is the oldest monarchy in the entire world, so it obviously has quite a bit of history and some secrets to boot.
One of the most interesting things about the Imperial Family to me is its Imperial Regalia. The Regalia are a set of priceless, holy artifacts in possession of the Imperial family for over a millennium.
What one artists thinks the Imperial Regalia look like.
That’s pretty cool in its own right, but here’s the catch: the Imperial Regalia are so highly guarded that only a handful of people have ever seen them. What’s the big deal?
What Are the Imperial Regalia?
At the most basic level, the Japanese Imperial Regalia aren’t the unusual. Virtually every monarchy in the world has some sort of highly-treasured royal jewel or other valuable regalia.
What sets the Japanese Imperial Regalia aparts is that they’re are steeped in myth. According to legend, the regalia supposedly come from the spiritual mother of Japan, the sun goddess Amaterasu. They include:
- Sword Known as Kusanagi (草薙), the “grass-cutting sword.” It used to go by the much more awesome name Ame no Murakumo (天叢雲), or “Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven,” but for some reason a lawnmower sounded more appealing.
- Jewel The “large jewel,” or Yasakani (八尺瓊曲玉), is a distinctly Japanese design. It’s what’s known as a magatama, a comma-shaped bead. It’s also supposedly the only piece of original regalia; the other two are replicas.
- Mirror The piece of Imperial Regalia with the most boring name, the Yata (八咫), or “Eight Hand Mirror,” makes up for its boring name with a badass backstory. The original mirror is thought to have been destroyed almost 1,000 years ago, but rebuilt from its ashes into the current one.
Each piece of the Imperial Regalia has its own myths attached to them, mostly about people trying to steal them or reveal their secrets dying mysterious deaths.
So where can you go to see the Imperial Regalia? Are they in a museum or something?
The Secrets of the Imperial Family
Here’s where things get interesting. Royal treasures like the regalia aren’t unheard of, but what is strange about the imperial regalia is how closely it’s guarded.
There have never been any drawings made nor photographs taken of the Japanese Imperial Regalia because so few people have seen them. Only a handful of people, including the Emperor and a few high Shinto priests, have ever seen them.
The Imperial Regalia are also almost never in the same place at the same time. The only time they’re ever assembled together is when a new emperor is enthrowned. Otherwise, they’re scattered across the country.
Scattered where? Nobody really knows for sure. Most people speculate that they rest in Shinto holy sites like the Ise Grand and Atsuta shrines, and possibly the Imperial Palace, but it’s impossible to get any sort of confirmation from the select few who have actually seen them.
It’s doubtful that the secrets of the Imperial Regalia will ever be fully unraveled. After all, the Japanese Imperial Family isn’t going away anytime soon, which means that the organization built around the Imperial Regalia is here to stay.