New Japanese imperial era Reiwa takes name from ancient poetry

New emperor, new era: How a single word defines Japan

New emperor, new era: How a single word defines Japan

There have been four era names in Japan's modern history: Meiji (1868-1912), Taisho (1912-1926), Showa (1926-1989) and the current Heisei, meaning "achieving peace".

Japan's new imperial era to begin on May 1, when Crown Prince Naruhito becomes emperor, will be called Reiwa, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced on Monday (April 1).

Highly secretive talks have been ongoing for months to pick a name for the new era, which should have a "positive meaning and be ideal for the Japanese people", according to government sources cited in local media.

This is the first time that an era name has been sourced from classic Japanese literature instead of Chinese.

The era's name aims to set the tone for the upcoming decades, and remains significant to most Japanese in their daily life. The new gengo will appear on everything from train tickets and software to official documents and calendars.

Emperor Akihito is stepping down on April 30, in the first abdication in 200 years, bringing his era of "Heisei" to an end. In the past, emperors would change era names mid-reign to foster a spirit of renewal after natural disasters or crises; more recently, a single era has been used to mark the entirety of a monarch's reign.

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe followed, providing an explanation of the reasons the name was chosen.

Scholars and bureaucrats had drawn up a list of candidates, and the cabinet made the final decision after consulting an advisory panel.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, speaking at a news conference shown live on national television, held up a white placard with the two Chinese characters of the new era name hand-written in black ink.

Japanese public bodies and companies now have a month to incorporate the new era's name into their paperwork and computer systems before Naruhito ascends the Chrysanthemum throne, becoming the country's 126th emperor. Things are different this time round, however, due to the abdication.

A "golden giant burger" is served at the Hotel Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Tokyo to commemorate Japan's era change. It was presided over by Japan's wartime emperor, Hirohito, and encompassed both World War Two and Japan's post-conflict boom.

A recent survey in the Mainichi newspaper found that a third of people mostly used the gengo system, compared to 82% in 1975, while 25% preferred the Western Gregorian calendar.

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