All members of the kazoku without an official government appointment in the provinces were initially obligated to reside in Tokyo. By the end of 1869, a pension system was adopted, which gradually displaced the kazoku from their posts as provincial governors and as government leaders. The stipends promised by the government were eventually replaced by government bonds.
The initial rank distribution for kazoku houses of kuge descent depended on the highest possible office to which its ancestors had been entitled in the imperial court. Thus, the heirs of the five regent houses (go-seike) of the Fujiwara dynasty (Konoe, Takatsukasa, Kujo, Ichijo, and Nijo) all became princes. The heads of other kuge houses (including Daigo, Hamuro, Kumamoto, Hirohata, Kazan'in, Kikutei, Koga, Nakamikado, Nakayama, Oinomikado, Saga, Sanjo, Saionji, Shijo, and Tokudaiji) became marquises. Also, the head of the Shō family, the former royal family of the Ryūkyūs (Okinawa), was given the title of marquis.
Excluding the Tokugawa, the initial kazoku rank distribution for the former daimyo lords depended on rice revenue: those with 150,000 koku or more became marquises, those with 50,000 koku or more become counts, etc. The former shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, became a prince, the heads of primary Tokugawa branch houses (shinpan daimyo) became marquises, and the heads of the secondary branches became counts.
As in British peerage, only the actual holder of a title and his consort were considered part of the kazoku. The holders of the top two ranks, prince and marquis, automatically became members of the House of Peers in the Diet of Japan upon their succession or upon majority (in the case of peers who were minors). Counts, viscounts, and barons elected up to 150 representatives from their ranks to the House of Peers.
Titles and hereditary financial stipends passed according to primogeniture, although kazoku houses frequently adopted sons from collateral branches of their own houses and other kazoku houses to prevent their lines from dying out. A 1904 amendment to the 1889 Imperial Household Law allowed minor princes (ō) of the imperial family to renounce their imperial status and become peers (in their own right) or heirs to childless peers. Initially there were 11 non-imperial princes or dukes, 24 marquis, 76 counts, 324 viscounts, and 74 barons, for a total of 509 peers. By 1928, through promotions and new creations there were a total of 954 peers: 18 non-imperial princes or dukes, 40 marquises, 108 counts, 379 viscounts, and 409 barons. The kazoku reached a peak of 1016 families in 1944.
The Constitution of Japan abolished the kazoku and ended the use of all titles of nobility or rank outside the immediate imperial family. Nonetheless, many descendants of former kazoku families continue to occupy prominent roles in Japanese society and industry.