Japanese govt unveils new era name a month ahead of emperor's abdication

Emperor Akihito (right) is preparing to step down at the end of the month, and will be replaced by Crown Prince Naruhito on May 1, 2019.PHOTO: AFP.

TOKYO (Bloomberg): Japan has named its new imperial era “Reiwa,” - meaning "order," "peace" or "harmony" - with the move coming a month before a new emperor ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne in the world’s oldest continuous monarchy.

The unveiling of what had been a closely guarded secret is among the first steps toward the imperial succession.

Emperor Akihito, 85, is preparing to step down at the end of the month, drawing the curtain on his three-decade reign.

His son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will replace him May 1, marking the beginning of the new era.

Era names are how Japan defines its history and the country is currently in the final weeks of Heisei, which can be translated as “achieving peace.”

Drivers’ licenses, newspapers and a host of official documents mark years from the enthronement of the emperor, with 2019 currently referred to as the “31st year of Heisei.”

A panel, including experts on the Japanese language and cultural tradition, convened Monday (April 1) for final consultations on the new era’s name.

The name was then presented to lawmakers and revealed to the public by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in an event broadcast live by the country’s TV networks.

Suga added that the name draws from the 7th century poetry collection “Manyoshu.”

It is believed to be the first time the era name, or “gengo”, has been taken from a Japanese document, a break from more than 1,300 years of using Chinese classics.

The combination of characters was chosen with criteria including that it must be relatively easy to write, but not in common usage. - Bloomberg

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