Reiwa — Japan's New Era
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Reiwa — Japan's New Era

By IndraStra Global News Team

Image Attribute: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announces the new Imperial era "Reiwa" to the press. / Date: April 1, 2019 / Source: Wikipedia

Image Attribute: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announces the new Imperial era "Reiwa" to the press. Japanese government unveiled the new era name for soon-to-be-emperor Naruhito, who will succeed the Chrysanthemum throne from his father on May 1, 2019.,/ Date: April 1, 2019,/ Source: Wikipedia

On April 1, 2019, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced that the new Imperial era will be named Reiwa (Japanese: 令和時代 Hepburn: Reiwa jidai). He traditionally revealed the name through kanji calligraphy on a board. The move is considered as one of the final steps toward initiating the nation’s first Imperial succession in three decades. 

The era is expected to start on May 1, 2019, the day when Emperor Akihito's elder son, Naruhito, is expected to ascend to the throne as the 126th Emperor of Japan. Emperor Akihito is expected to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne on April 30, 2019, marking the end of the Heisei period. Each Japanese emperor's reign is given a name, or "gengō", that is then used alongside the Western calendar to mark the years.

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The Meaning of Reiwa

The first character, “rei,” is often used to mean “order” or “command,” which has an authoritarian nuance that offends some people. Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and his government prefer “good” or “beautiful”, a lesser known meaning of the character. The second character, “wa,” is defined as “peace” or “harmony”, so together the two characters mean “beautiful harmony.” Many Japanese people are not familiar with the use of “rei” to mean "good". For most, the first phrase that comes to mind is likely to be “meirei,” which literally means an order or command from a supervisor.

Prime Minister Abe also revealed that for the first time the name’s source was a Japanese classic — “Manyoshu,” a 1,300-year-old poem, not a Chinese text as was the case in past era names. He further added, "The name Reiwa means that culture is born and grows when people come together and care for each other beautifully." 

According to the Japan Times, the Manyoshu passage that inspired Reiwa was written by poet Otomo no Tabito as an introduction to 32 ume-themed poems penned by his poet friends, according to officials. In the introduction, “rei” was used to refer to “reigetsu,” or “auspicious month,” while “wa” described the peaceful manner of an early spring breeze.

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With reporting by BBC, The Japan Times, and Reuters