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18 April 2024

Japan unveils new era name ahead of abdication “Reiwa”

Photo: AP


The name of the era of Japan’s soon-to-be-emperor Naruhito will be “Reiwa,” or ordering harmony, the government announced Monday.

It’s a proclamation that has happened only twice in nearly a century.

Emperor Akihito is stepping down on April 30 — the first abdication in 200 years — bringing his era of “Heisei” to an end.

The new era takes effect May 1.

It may appear trivial to outsiders, but the announcement of a new era name is a massive event in Japan that will be marked with special newspaper editions, calligraphy shows and public festivities.

The new era name therefore has a huge impact on daily life and anticipation is at fever pitch to see what will replace the era that marked Akihito's reign - "Heisei" or "peace prevails everywhere."

An era name is an inextricable part of public life and shared memory in Japan.

A lot of what happens in the years to come — births, deaths, natural disasters, cultural and social phenomena, election glory and political scandal — will be connected to the new era name.

"Reiwa" means that culture is born and nurtured as the people “beautifully care about each other.”

The letters taken from the 1,200-year-old Japanese poetry book portrays “Japan’s unique national identity, such as everlasting history, its fragrant culture and four seasons that bring beautiful nature, and firmly hands them down to the next generation,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

He said the government chose the name Reiwa “with hopes of making Japan a nation where every person can achieve dreams, like the plum flowers that bloom beautifully after the severe winter to signal the start of the spring.”