Japan reveals name of new era as Emperor Akihito prepares to abdicate

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On 1 May, Emperor Akihito will make way for the ascension of his son, Naruhito, to the the throne, which marks the start of Reiwa.
Japan has announced the name for its new imperial era as crown prince Naruhito prepares to ascend the country’s Chrysanthemum Throne.

The incoming era will be called Reiwa, consisting of two Chinese characters – the first meaning “good” or “beautiful”, and the second meaning “peace” or “harmony”.

The name was chosen to reflect the beginning of an era “filled with hope,” according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The new era begins on 1 May, when Emperor Akihito abdicates, bringing to an end the 30-year era of Heisei, which means “achieving peace”.

The name Reiwa was inspired by Manyoshu – a compilation of classic Japanese poetry – breaking the usual tradition of drawing a name from Chinese texts.

“It is a collection that expresses our nation’s rich culture, which we should take pride in, along with our nation’s beautiful nature,” Mr Abe said.

The move is part of Mr Abe’s attempt to bolster national pride.

The imperial era name, or “gengo”, is widely used in official documents in Japan as well as in newspapers and coins.

It is an inextricable part of public life and shared memory in Japan: for example, it is the reference many people give when speaking of belonging to a generation.

It is also the way many Japanese count years, although use of the Western calendar is becoming more widespread, and many use the two systems interchangeably.

Usually, the new era is revealed when the new emperor has taken the throne. But the abdication of Emperor Akihito changed the process.

It is the first abdication of a Japanese emperor in 200 years as such a process is not traditionally possible under Japanese law.

In 2016, the then 82-year-old emperor implied his wish to step down after suggesting his age and declining health would prevent him from carrying out his duties.

An outpouring of public sympathy then prompted the Japanese government to enact a bill allowing Akihito to abdicate.