Reiwa: What is the new Japanese imperial era and how will it affect everyday life?

Reiwa follows the previous imperial era, Heisei, which meant ‘achieving peace’

Sabrina Barr
Tuesday 22 October 2019 10:45 BST
Japan's Prime Minister Abe explains its new era name Reiwa

In April, the name of Japan's new imperial era was announced.

The reveal of the new imperial era, Reiwa, marked less than a month until Crown Prince Naruhito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne as emperor.

Naruhito will take the place of his father, Emperor Akihito, who has ruled since 1989 and will become the first monarch in 200 years to abdicate the throne.

A parade celebrating Naruhito's ascension will take place in Tokyo on Tuesday, having been postponed in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis.

Emperor Akihito's 30-year period of rule has been known as the Heisei era, which translates to mean "achieving peace".

So what is the meaning of Reiwa and how will the new imperial era affect everyday life? Here's everything you need to know:

What is the meaning of Reiwa?

The name of Japan's new imperial era was announced during a news conference by chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, in Tokyo, Japan.

The name consists of two characters, which were presented by Suga on a white placard.

The first character in the name means "order" or "command", while the second means "peace" or "harmony", Reuters reports.

During the news conference, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe stated: "The name Reiwa means that culture is born and grows when people come together and care for each other beautifully."

How was the name Reiwa chosen?

The names of Japanese eras are usually taken from ancient Chinese texts.

The previous era Heisei, for example, was given its name from two Chinese history and philosophy books, former chief cabinet secretary and prime minister Keizo Obuchi announced when the era began.

Reiwa departs from tradition, as its name has taken inspiration from an ancient collection of Japanese poetry called the Manyoshu.

The 7th century Manyoshu is the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry.

"It is a collection which expresses our nation's rich culture, which we should take pride in, along with our nation's beautiful nature," Abe said of the Japanese poetry collection.

"We believe this national character should be passed along to the next era."

How will the new era affect everyday life in Japan?

When unveiling then name of the new imperial era, Suga explained how he hopes Reiwa will positively impact the Japanese nation.

"We hope it will be widely accepted by the people and deeply rooted as part of their daily lives," he said.

While Japan uses the western Gregorian calendar, the country also denotes the year by using the name of the current imperial era.

Therefore, when Reiwa officially begins on Wednesday 1 May, 2019 will also become known as "Reiwa 1".

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The era name will be used on official documents, coins, calendars and newspapers.

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