Japan's New Imperial Era Revealed For The First Time

Clay Curtis
April 2, 2019

The name, drawn from an ancient Japanese text, takes effect on May 1, when Crown Prince Naruhito becomes emperor.

The Cabinet chose the name from a list of proposals made by experts in in Japanese and Chinese literature and history.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the name on Monday.

Japan's cabinet has selected the nation's 248th era name, part of a tradition dating back to the 7th century: "Reiwa".

A different government source revealed Reiwa was chosen from five candidates.

Prime Minister explains rationale behind decision and compares people of Japan to flowers, but not cherry blossoms. His father, Emperor Akihito, is abdicating, with his "Heisei" era coming to an end the day before.

Japan's Emperor Akihito, flanked by Empress Michiko, leads his royal family members Crown Prince Naruhito (C), Crown Princess Masako (2nd R), Prince Akishino (L), Princess Kiko (3rd R) and their daughter Princess Mako to greet guests.

Reiwa.com is hoping that Japan's new era also brings a new era in a market that is shrinking after a decade-long mining-fuelled boom.

There had been speculation that the hawkish government of Shinzo Abe, which has responsibility for naming the new era after the post-war constitution stripped all political powers from the emperor, would steer clear of a Chinese name.

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It's a proclamation that has happened only twice in almost a century, and the new name will follow Emperor Naruhito, after his 1 May investiture, for the duration of his rule - and beyond, becoming his official name after death.

"A lot of things have changed in the last 30 years, things that would have been hard to imagine" at the beginning of the Heisei era, said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan.

While a growing number of Japanese prefer the Western calendar over the Japanese system in a highly digitalized and globalized society, the era name is still widely used in government and business documents.

Shares of book retailer Bunkyodo Group Holdings jumped as much as 29 percent on expectations that Japanese will buy copies of the Manyoshu anthology of poems that inspired the name.

The era name is only for domestic use.

Asked the significance of its selection from a Japanese classical text, Abe said: 'It is a collection which expresses our nation's rich culture, which we should take pride in, along with our nation's lovely nature.

Era names must normally consist of two kanji characters that are easy to read and write.

"Japan is entering a new era with its population rapidly ageing, and a bright future can only be secured if its people have their own ideas, individuality and strengths". Japan adopted the system in 645 and has since had 247 eras, including Akihito's 1989-2019 "Heisei", which means "achieving peace".

Months of secret deliberations went into choosing the name, which was announced on television on Monday. Analysts say the era change that expands the "golden week" holidays to 10 days on May 1 could buoy tourism and other recreational spending.

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