Japan’s Reiwa Era Has Begun

There are two elements that identify the years in the Japanese era calendar scheme, one of the elements is a number which indicates the year number within the era. The other element is the nengō or “year name”, also known as gengō.

The nengō system was derived from the Chinese Imperial practice that dates back to 140 B.C.E. and was also common practice in East Asia. It was adopted by Japan in 645 C.E. during the reign of Emperor Kōtoku. The very first era name that was assigned was “Taika” which celebrated the political organizational changes from the great Taika Reform Edicts (set of doctrines established by Emperor Kōtoku).

Emperor Naruhito with Empress Masako of Japan. | 笔尖留痕

The regular practice of proclaiming era names was interrupted in the late 7th century but was reinstated in 701 during Emperor Mommu’s reign (697–707). Since then, era names have been used continuously: Japanese government offices usually require era names and years on official papers.

Japan began using its new imperial name when Prince Naruhito ascended the throne on the 1st of May, this year. For the very first time in Japan’s history, the official name or gengō. was announced a month in advance of its official implementation and thus began the 248th imperial period of Japanese history, the 令和 Reiwa Era.

Since mid-March of this year, a selected group of individuals specializing in literature and Oriental history have been studying a list of about 30 possible names for the new era.

Yoshoshihide Suga announcing new imperial era Reiwa, Japan. | 首相官邸ホームページ

The cabinet narrowed down the options to five names which were further examines by governmental commission before arriving at a final decision on the name. The final four were revealed on NHK TV: 英弘 Eikô, 久化 Kyûka, 広至 Kôshi, 万和 Banna and 万保 Banpô while the winning name was declared in a press conference from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office by current Cabinet General Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

“Reiwa” in the official speech of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe states that the word is a marriage between:

令 rei for “good fortune” and “auspicious”

和 wa for “peace” or “harmony”.

The Reiwa Era is said to follow in the steps of its elder Heisei, when translated, meaning “Achieving Peace.” In a world that is supposed to be interconnected, the Japanese nation strives to live its traditions and share them in general accepted benevolence in “good harmony”.