Japan announced its new imperial era, which will begin next month when Emperor Akihito abdicates, will be known as “Reiwa.” Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP
TOKYO: Japan on Monday announced its new imperial era, which will begin next month after Emperor Akihito abdicates, will be known as “Reiwa,” a word that includes the character for “harmony.”
The name consists of two characters: “Rei,” which can have meanings related to “order” but also “auspicious” and “Wa,” usually translated as “peace” or “harmony.”
The government is expected to explain the official meaning as well as the English spelling for the name shortly.
“A short while ago, the government decided at a cabinet meeting on the new era name and how to pronounce it,” Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference, holding up the new name painted in traditional calligraphy on white paper.
Although the Gregorian calendar is widely used in Japan, the imperial calendar is also in common use and the new era announcement has been highly anticipated.
Emperor Akihito will step down at the end of April and his son Crown Prince Naruhito will assume the throne on May 1, when the new era will officially begin.
The era that defined the reign of Akihito was known as “Heisei” (or “peace prevails everywhere”).
Japanese Emperor Akihito made his last pilgrimage to the country’s holiest Shinto shrine on Thursday, as people lined the route to catch a glimpse of the 85-year-old ahead of his abdication this month.
The last couple of days in Japan have been of huge historical significance. On Tuesday Emperor Akihito, who ascended the throne in 1989, completed his elaborate abdication ceremony; on Wednesday Emperor Naruhito took over, becoming the island nation’s 126th emperor and ushering in a new era.
His father, Hirohito, in whose name Japanese troops fought World War Two, was considered a living deity until after Japan's defeat in 1945, when he renounced his divinity.
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