See More on Facebook

Culture and society

‘Reiwa’ chosen as new era name

The name will come into effect when Akihito abdicates his throne in May.


Written by

Updated: April 1, 2019

The government decided the new era name as “Reiwa” at an extraordinary Cabinet meeting on Monday morning. Later, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe read out his statement at a press conference to explain the meanings connoted by the new era name.

A government ordinance to set the new era name was signed by the Emperor and promulgated the same day. Reiwa will begin and Heisei will end just after the clock strikes midnight on April 30 to give way to May 1, the day of Crown Prince Naruhito’s enthronement.

The new era name was announced by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga after the Cabinet meeting. He held up the name written in calligraphy in sumi black ink.

Reiwa is the 248th era name (see below) in Japan since Taika was established in 645.

According to Suga, the name was derived from the “Manyoshu,” Japan’s oldest poetry collection.

Two kanji characters — “rei” and “wa” — were taken from the introduction of a set of 32 poems on plum trees in the “Manyoshu.”

This is the first time that an era name has been sourced from classical Japanese literature instead of Chinese. Among 77 era names up to Heisei whose sources were confirmed, all were taken from Chinese classics.

The decision on the new era name readies the nation for the first Imperial abdication in Japan’s constitutional history. There have been no other cases in which an era name to be used for a new era was unveiled prior to the start of that era.

In selecting the new era name, the government followed the process taken for selecting Heisei.

In March, the government formally requested scholars in Japanese literature, classical Chinese literature, Japanese history and oriental history to come up with era name candidates.

On Monday, the government held a meeting with nine opinion leaders such as Nobel laureate and Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka and Naoki Prize-winning writer Mariko Hayashi at the Prime Minister’s Office to hear opinions from them on the short list of names.

Suga then visited the official residence of the president of the House of Representatives to meet with the heads and the deputy heads of both chambers of the Diet to hear their opinions on the candidates.

The government then held a forum of all Cabinet ministers at the Prime Minister’s Office to discuss the new era name based on the opinions heard. The government formally decided the new era name at the extraordinary Cabinet meeting.

Afterward, the new era name was reported to the Emperor and Empress.

The government will not release who originally came up with the new name of Reiwa or other candidate era names.

After the announcement, Yamanaka told reporters that multiple candidates were presented from Chinese and Japanese classics.

One Cabinet minister said there had been at least six names presented at the meeting.

The government had decided to announce the era name one month before it takes effect to give time to modify computer and other systems in the public and private sectors ahead of the transition to the new name.

1st Japanese classic used

The “Manyoshu” is an anthology of poems mainly compiled in the Nara period (710-784).

In the case of selecting Heisei, there was a move to source a name from classical Japanese literature. Junzo Matoba, a former bureaucrat involved in the process of selecting Heisei as the head of the Cabinet councillors office for internal affairs, had said the government asked a Japanese literature scholar to come up with candidate names. But the names proposed were not included as candidates presented at a meeting of opinion leaders.

A government source said there was concern at that time that the new era name’s reputation would be damaged if the classical Japanese text sourced was itself originally based on a Chinese classic, as many Japanese classics use passages quoting Chinese classics. Therefore, some experts did not support using Japanese classics.

■ Era name

The world’s first named era was “Jianyuan,” adopted by Emperor Wu of China’s Han dynasty in the second century B.C. After that, the practice of giving titles to eras spread to cultures around China that use kanji characters, such as in Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Currently, Japan is the only country that uses era names



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Japan News
About the Author: The Japan News is published by The Yomiuri Shimbun, which boasts the largest circulation in the world.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Culture and society

S. Korean, ASEAN officials look ahead to special summit and stronger regional ties

Korea has increasingly look to Southeast Asia as an export destination and regional partners. Ahead of the highly anticipated summit in Busan next month between the leaders of South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, top officials from participating countries gathered in the southern port city Wednesday and voiced high expectations for the future of the relationship between South Korea and the ASEAN nations. South Korean Ambassador to ASEAN Lim Sung-nam, ASEAN-Korea Center Secretary-General Lee Hyuk, Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don and Myanmar Ambassador to South Korea U Thant Sin said they looked forward to the upcoming summit, calling it a steppingstone to stronger South Korea-ASEAN ties and to economic prosperity and peace on the Korean Peninsula. “In the past 30 years, the relationship between South Korea and ASEAN has grown to an astonishing degree. Trade volume rose 20-fold and human e


By The Korea Herald
October 18, 2019

Culture and society

Rationalising climate change

The first step to addressing the alarming problem of climate change is creating awareness, which authors and scientists are tirelessly attempting to inculcate in people. Franz Kafka (1883- 1924), a Bohemian novelist who is considered a major literary figure of the 20th century, wrote, “There is infinite hope… but not for us.” His words tell us of the characters in his narratives who embark on various ventures, but seldom succeed. Today, writers highlight these words of Kafka to refer not to Kafka’s characters, but to humanity’s future with reference to climate change. Some of these writers, in present times, similarly project that the hope for a greener planet is “not for us.” We are informed of mankind’s anguish concerning the problem of climate change. The truth of the matter is that a lot has already occurred, with side effects of climate change being felt the world over. Even a fraction of


By The Statesman
October 17, 2019

Culture and society

No to terrorism, communalism

Still smarting from brutal murder of Abrar, Buet students vow to resist repeat of such incidents.  With the murder of Abrar Fahad fresh in everyone’s minds, protesting students of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology yesterday took an oath to resist terrorism and communal forces on the campus. “We will collectively prevent the rise of all sorts of terrorist activities and evil communal forces on the campus. Imbued with morality, we will uproot all the discriminatory cultures and abuses of power,” the students said in unison. “Together we will make sure that no innocent life falls apart and the innocent do not fall victim to torture on this university ground.” Several hundred students took the oath in presence of Buet vice-chancellor Prof Saiful Islam, deans of different faculties and provosts of the halls. The programme was


By Daily Star
October 17, 2019

Culture and society

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam unveils measures to ease housing crunch

Lam was forced to deliver speech via video after protests. Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced measures aimed at easing a housing shortage on Wednesday (Oct 16) as she battles to restore confidence in her administration and address widespread discontent after four months of mostly violent anti-government protests. Mrs Lam was forced to deliver her speech via video after her annual policy address in the Legislative Council was aborted when some lawmakers repeatedly jeered and shouted at her as she began speaking. After aborting her speech in the chamber tw


By The Straits Times
October 17, 2019

Culture and society

Bengali Nobel laureate Abhijit at a glance

Abhijit Banerjee shared the Nobel Prize for economics. Indian-born Abhijit Banerjee of the US, French-American Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer of the US today won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize for their work in fighting global poverty. Here is the brief profile of Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee: Fifty-eight-year-old Abhijit was born in Kolkata of India in 1961. His mother Nirmala Banerjee was a professor of economics at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Kolkata. Abhijit’s father Dipak Banerjee was a professor and the head of the Department of Economics at Presidency College in Kolkata. He went to South Point School and completed his BS degree in economics from Presidency College in Kolkata in 1981.


By Daily Star
October 15, 2019

Culture and society

Xi, Modi chart course ahead for new era

Informal meeting in India designed to build mutual trust between neighbors.  China and India can create an even closer partnership in the new era, as the countries’ leaders have reset relations through an informal meeting over the weekend in the coastal city of Chennai in southern India, officials and experts said. President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in-depth discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues of “overall, long-term and strategic” importance in their second informal meeting, Vice-Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui told reporters after the meeting. Xi called for building up strategic mutual trust between the two neighboring countries and defusing their differences through communication. He said the only correct choice is for the “Chinese dragon” and “Indian elephant” to dance together in ways that


By China Daily
October 15, 2019