What is a Royal Warrant?

A royal warrant is issued to purveyors of food and goods used regularly by His Imperial Majesty and the Japanese Imperial Family. The Imperial Household Ministry (predecessor to today’s Imperial Household Agency) established guidelines for the royal warrants in 1891. Only suppliers that met the Imperial Household Ministry’s standards were eligible to receive a warrant.

Contrary to what you might expect from such a lofty-sounding designation, the royal warrants weren’t all for upscale or expensive products. The ministry felt compelled to formalize recognition of Imperial Household suppliers because of the merchants who were claiming to serve the Imperial Family to give their business a boost. With the issuance of royal warrants, the pretenders were exposed.

The ministry set standards for the royal warrants such as supplying the Imperial Household Ministry for more than five years, having enough capital, having a prestigious office address, etc. But producing fancy or luxurious items was not a prerequisite. Once a supplier received its royal warrant, it could use it in advertising and promotional materials for five years. The rules were strictly enforced. Once your five-year period was up, you needed to apply again to regain your warrant.

The royal-warrant system was abolished in 1953. Suppliers that earned their warrants before 1953 and are still in business have a certain status today as the last remaining royal-warrant holders. Today, the Imperial Household Agency still screens all the goods used by the Imperial Family, but the suppliers’ names aren’t published.

Origami would like to introduce some of the products available today that earned a royal warrant.


Several Japanese sake brands earned royal warrants. Souhana, brewed by Nihonsakari in Hyogo Prefecture, is especially famous. The sake brewery was formed in 1889, making it a newcomer in the industry at the time. It has supplied the Imperial Family since 1913 and was served at the coronation of Emperor Showa (Hirohito) and the royal weddings of Emperor Akihito, the Crown Prince, and Prince Akishino. Souhana has grown up alongside the Imperial Family. It is made from special Yamada Nishiki rice that is polished to less than 55% of its original size. The result is a harmony of sweetness, bitterness, dryness, and acidity; this junmai ginjo sake has a clean, traditional taste that is well balanced and easy to drink. For more, check out the brewery’s website: http://nihonsakari.net/e/souhana.html


Douki Kawabata, a former samurai, named his sweets shop after himself. His shop supplied rice cakes for breakfast at Nijo-jo Castle for about 330 years, from 1536 to the time when the Emperor moved his residence to Tokyo. The shop’s specialty is the Douki Chimaki, which features high-quality red-bean paste wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed. No additives are used. Today, it’s still a very popular souvenir in Kyoto because of its delicious taste and elegant shape. To contact the store, call +81-75-781-8117.


The chopsticks specialty store Ichihara Heibei opened its doors for business in 1764, which means it has been supplying the Imperial Family with chopsticks for more than a quarter millennium! The store displays more than 400 types of chopsticks, all handcrafted by artisans. Professional chefs come here to get chopsticks to cook and serve with. Craftspeople have learned through the ages to adjust the thickness, length, and sharpness of a pair of chopsticks depending on intended use. The signature item at the shop is a pair of Miyakobashi chopsticks, which are made from a rare bamboo known as susutake. They are durable, don’t warp, and fit perfectly into one’s hands. It is often said that if you use a pair, you won’t want to use anything else. Check out the website for more information: https://ichiharaheibei.com

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