On May 1st, 2019, the new Emperor will be crowned in Japan. The Heisei Era (平成) began in 1989 and ends on May 1.
Prior to the actual start of the new era, the name of the era (gengo,元号) was announced earlier today on April 1.
There are several conditions when it comes to selecting the name for a new era:
1. Having a suitable meaning representing the people and country
2. Must have only two kanji (Chinese characters)
3. Should be easy to use
4. Should be easy to read
5. Must not have been used previously
Since many people use the first letter of the era name for various official purposes (including computer programs), the first letter of the new era name cannot begin with M, T, S or H, the names of the last four eras (Meiji, Taisho, Showa, Heisei).
The new era name “令和(Reiwa)” was created by considering all of these conditions.
The meaning of 令和(Reiwa)
The new era name comes from Japan’s oldest poetry anthology called Manyoshu (万葉集). It is the first time that the name of an era has been taken from a work of Japanese literature. This anthology consists of 1,200 poems written by people of various standing and is indicative of Japan’s long, rich history.
Below is a translation of Prime Minister Abe’s announcement:
“The era name represents our country’s culture being born and nurtured by people’s hearts coming together beautifully (omitted)…We have decided the new name to be Reiwa in the hope that Japan will be a country where people can fulfill their wishes for the future and achieve success like plum flowers that bloom after the severe cold (omitted)…I hope the new era name will be deeply rooted in the lives of the people of Japan.”
The current Emperor Akihito will be abdicated on April 30 and the next Emperor Naruhito takes the title of Emperor from May 1.
The era change also means in 2019 Japan’s Golden Week Holidays extend to ten days! So better to avoid travel from April 27-May 7, 2019.