In 1869, under the new Meiji government, a Japanese peerage was created by an Imperial decree merging the former Court nobility (kuge) and former feudal lords (daimyōs) into a single new aristocratic class called the kazoku. A second imperial ordinance in 1884 grouped the kazoku into five ranks equivalent to the European aristocrats, prince (or duke), marquis, count, viscount, and baron. Although this grouping idea was taken from the European peerage, the Japanese titles were taken from Chinese and based on the ancient feudal system in China. Itō Hirobumi and the other Meiji leaders deliberately modeled the chamber on the British House of Lords, as a counterweight to the popularly elected House of Representatives (Shūgiin).
In 1889, the House of Peers Ordinance established the House of Peers and its composition. For the first session of the Imperial Diet (1889–1890), there were 145 hereditary members and 106 imperial appointees and high taxpayers, for a total of 251 members. With the creation of new peers, additional seats for members of the former Korean nobility and four seats for representatives from The Japan Imperial Academy, membership peaked at 409 seats by 1938. In 1947 during its 92nd and final session, the number of members was 373.
After revisions to the ordinance, notably in 1925, the House of Peers comprised:
|No.||Name||Portrait||Title||Term of Office||Sessions|
|1||Itō Hirobumi||Count (hakushaku)||24 October 1890||20 July 1891||1|
|2||Hachisuka Mochiaki||Marquis (kōshaku)||20 July 1891||3 October 1896||2–9|
|3||Konoe Atsumaro||Prince (kōshaku)||3 October 1896||4 December 1903||10–18|
|4||Tokugawa Iesato||Prince (kōshaku)||4 December 1903||9 June 1933||19–64|
|5||Fumimaro Konoe||Prince (kōshaku)||9 June 1933||17 June 1937||65–70|
|6||Yorinaga Matsudaira||Count (hakushaku)||17 June 1937||11 October 1944||71–85|
|7||Tokugawa Kuniyuki||Prince (kōshaku)||11 October 1944||19 June 1946||86–89|
|8||Tokugawa Iemasa||Prince (kōshaku)||19 June 1946||2 May 1947||90–92|