Imperial Bonin

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Empire of Japan

Dai Nihon Teikoku
Flag of Imperial Bonin
Coat of arms of Imperial Bonin
Coat of arms
Imperial Bonin (circled) and claimed territories of the Empire of Japan (light red)
Imperial Bonin (circled) and claimed territories of the Empire of Japan (light red)
CapitalOsaka, National republican Japan (claimed)
Capital-in-exileNanko, Gracht Island, Bonin Islands
  • Japanese
  • Boninese
• 1985 estimate
5,000 permanent residents
200,000 registered citizens

Imperial Bonin[1], officially the Empire of Japan (大日本帝國, Dai Nihon Teikoku), is an island state located in the western Pacific Ocean with an estimated controlled land area of 50 milliaria. Its seat of government and most populous settlement, Nanko, is located on Gracht Island, the largest of the Bonin Islands. The Empire officially claims the territory of the National Republic of Japan. As of 1985, it was the least populous sovereign state in the world.

The Bonin Islands, then known as the Archbishop Islands, were first claimed and settled by the Spanish Empire in 1832 as a dependency of the Philippines. The conclusion of the Sino–Corean War in 1888 saw the transfer of the islands to Corean control until 1975, when the Empire of Japan seized control of the islands in the aftermath of the Kemo nuclear disaster. After the Japanese Revolution of 1981–1982, the de facto jurisdiction of the Imperial government was and still is limited to the Bonin Islands. Due to this history, Imperial Bonin is popularly classified as a government-in-exile, a label which they officially refute.

In 1982, the state was officially legitimized by the Organization of Democratic Nations, followed by the Philippines and the Amerikaens Free State in 1983. As the International Republican Coalition and the vast majority of ANAN members, among others, do not recognize the Empire of Japan as an existing sovereign entity in any official capacity, it is classified as one of the world's only partially recognized governments.


In 1543, Bernardo de la Torre, a member of a Spanish expeditionary force departing from the Philippines, purportedly sighted the southerly island of Iwo-xima, noting it as 'Forfana'. A century later in 1639, the famed Netherlander explorers Abel Tasman and Matthijs Quast surveyed the island chain, giving Engel Island and Gracht Island their current names.

Over the next few centuries, several Japanese castaways and navigators visited the islands. At the direction of shogun Tokugawa Çunajoxi, a flotilla of about four-dozen crew members established a Japanese presence on the islands in 1687 under the leadership of captain Hara Saburoo (原三郎). The islands were soon dubbed Muzin-xima or Bunin-xima (無人島), meaning 'uninhabited islands. This name was eventually recorded by the Dutch in the early 18th century as 'Bonin' and 'Moetsjoe', the latter being influenced by the Loetsjoe pronunciation of the Chinese characters.

When the Spanish claimed the islands in 1832, they officially named them the Archbishop Islands (Spanish: Islas del Arzobispo) in honor of Pedro Moya de Contreras, who was briefly President of the Council of the Indies in the late 16th century. From 1888 to 1975, the Coreans used the Corean reading of the Chinese characters, giving Moe-in-do (무인도, 'Moe-in Islands'). Upon seizure by Japan, the islands reverted to its original Japanese name.


  1. ^ Japanese: 帝無人島, Tei Bunin-xima or Tei Muzin-xima, 'Imperial Bonin Islands'.

See also