Mlkado, a term of doubtful etymology, used to designate the emperor of Japan. The word does not occur in the most ancient Japanese books, but is the one, out of many names given to the emperor, which has obtained the greatest currency. The derivation of mikado usually accepted by the Japanese is from mi honorable, august and kado, a gate, equivalent to the Iurkish title Sublime Porte. Another derivation, given by Satow, is from mika, grand, awful, and to, place. It originally meant the palace of the sovereign, but by a figure of speech especially common in Japanese, it is used for the sovereign himself, just as dalrl, the palace, with the suffix sama, is also used. Other terms applied to the emperor are hotel, judge of the world, or ruler over nations; tenshl, son of heaven; Tcinrl, the forbidden interior; dairi, the inner interior; chotei, hall of audience; and tenno, heaven-king. Tenno is the official designation now used, and all Japanese ministers and consuls are accredited as representatives of "his imperial majesty the tenno of Japan." The first mikado, Jimmu Tenno, who is usually regarded as a historical character, began to reign about 660 B. C, since which time 131 emperors have occupied the throne.
The mikado claims divine descent from the gods or kami who created heaven and earth (or Japan). He has no family name, and no mikado ever takes the name of any of his predecessors. The reigning mikado (1875) is Mutsuhito, second son of the emperor Ko-mei Tenno and the empress Fujiwara Asako. He was born in 1850, succeeded his father Feb. 3,1868, and married Haruko, daughter of Ichijo Tadaka, a noble of the second degree of the first rank, born in June, 1850. (See Japan, vol. x., pp. 542-6.) The "unbroken line of descent through 25 centuries " claimed for the mikado has been made possible and even probable by the existence in Japan of the custom prevalent in Asiatic nations of adoption and concubinage. The mikado is allowed 12 niogo or concubines, though the number is rarely filled up. As an additional safeguard against failure of issue, four cadet families of the imperial blood called the shishinwo have long been set apart, from which heirs to the throne might be chosen. The present mikado, abandoning the habits of seclusion practised by his ancestors, appears in public, and gives audience to members of the diplomatic corps in Japan, to his own officers, and to the foreigners employed in the government service. Pie dresses, eats, rides, and acts like a European sovereign.
The real governing power in Japan, however, resides in the dai jo kuan, or supreme council.