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Japan Prepares to Usher in Reiwa Era May 1


Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga unveils the name of new era “Reiwa” at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Monday, April 1, 2019.

When Japanese Emperor Akihito abdicates in one month's time, it will usher in a new era. The new era will be ushered in when Crown Prince Naruhito ascends to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1.

Akihito will abdicate the imperial throne on April 30 of this year. When he does so, it will be the second time in nearly a century that Japan has ushered in a new era.

A day later, on May 1, the Reiwa era begins.

Japan is the only remaining country in the world that continues to use the era-name system, which has its roots in China.

Under Emperor Akihito, the current era, "Heisei" era, which translates to "peace prevails everywhere" or "achieving peace," has spanned 30 years, impacting the daily lives of those in Japan.

As the current era nears its end, it's inspired those in the country to reflect on the past three decades and look forward to the future.

The new era name was chosen by a panel from a number of names submitted by scholars.

The Reiwa era follows the traditional naming guidelines: it consists of only two Japanese characters, or kanji, is easily read and written, and doesn't use common words.

People watch a TV screen showing the name of new era “Reiwa” is unveiled in a news program in Tokyo, Monday, April 1, 2019.
People watch a TV screen showing the name of new era “Reiwa” is unveiled in a news program in Tokyo, Monday, April 1, 2019.

The paired characters roughly translate to decree, order, or command; and harmony, peace, and serenity.

Following Monday's announcement, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explained that Reiwa means culture is created by and nurtured by people who "beautifully care about each other."

Abe added that "With this selection of a new era name, I renew my commitment to pioneer a new era that will be filled with hope."

The word reiwa comes from prose in the Manyoshu, a collection of nearly 4,500 ancient Japanese poems organized into 20 books dating back to the 8th century.

When announcing the new era name, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga said, "We hope (the era name) will be widely accepted by the people and deeply rooted as part of their daily lives."

The announcement, made on April 1 was the 248th of its kind, marking one of the final hurdles for Crown Prince Naruhito before he ascends to the throne.

Naruhito was born on February 23, 1960, and studied at Oxford University for two years after earning a history degree in Japan.

Emperor Akihito began his reign January 8, 1989, the day following his father's death, Emperor Hirohito, who is known posthumously as Emperor Showa.

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    Steve Miller

    Steve Miller is a veteran broadcast journalist with over a decade of experience. He is currently the host of VOA's Flashpoint Ukraine daily radio program, going beyond the headlines to put the day's events into a broader, global context. Before coming to VOA in 2016, Steve  covered the Indo-Pacific region while living in South Korea, where he explored the region's rich history and culture while reporting on geopolitics, human rights, and tourism.