The Emperor is the head of the Japanese Imperial Family. He is also the highest authority of the Shinto religion. Japan's present 1947 constitution does not use the term head of state but refers to the Emperor as "the symbol of the state and the unity of the people". It establishes the emperor as a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy. In his dual role as head of a religion and head of state the Emperor resembles the British monarch, who is "supreme governor" of the Church of England.
The Imperial House of Japan is the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world. In Nihon Shoki, a book of Japanese history finished in the eighth century, it is said that the Empire of Japan was founded in 660 BC by Emperor Jimmu. The current emperor is His Imperial Majesty the Emperor Akihito, who has been on the Chrysanthemum Throne since his father the Showa Emperor (Hirohito) died in 1989.
The role of the Emperor of Japan has historically alternated between a largely ceremonial and symbolic role and that of an actual imperial ruler. Since the establishment of the first shogunate in 1192, the emperors of Japan have rarely taken on a role as supreme battlefield commander, unlike many Western monarchs. Japanese emperors have nearly always been controlled by external political forces, to varying degrees. In fact, from 1192 to 1867, the shoguns, or their shikken regents (1203 � 1333), were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, the Imperial Palace has been called "Kyūjō" (宮城), then Kōkyo (皇居), and located on the former site of Edo Castle in the heart of Tokyo. Earlier emperors resided in Kyoto for nearly eleven centuries.
The Emperor's Birthday (currently celebrated on 23 December) is a national holiday.