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Reiwa - A new era dawning in Japan, marking a break from Chinese

April 2, 2019
TOKYO: Japan has announced the dawn of a new era. A new era begins when a new king is installed. The coronation of crown prince Naruhito will take place on May 1 and the new era of 'Reiwa' begins then. The 85-year old Akihito had abdicated due to ill-health. Abdication is rare in Japanese history. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made the announcement of the name of the new era.

'Reiwa' is a character of 'harmony' chosen from an ethnic 8th century work of poetry unlike on previous occasions adaptations were made from the Chinese. Therefore the focus is on the country's own culture and tradions. 'Rei' means order and 'Wa' means auspicious, harmony, peace etc.

The gengo is printed on coins, newspapers, driving licences and official paperwork. However, for the people, the system is gradually declining.

READ: New emperor, new era: How a single word defines Japan

The current era or 'gengo' called Heisei, of Emperor Akihito, will end with the coronation of the prince. The previous one was called Showa era. Taisho and Meiji went before. Every reign of an emperor is given a name alongside the calendar year. The name of a reign is called 'gengo.'

The current Heisei Era began in 1989, when Akihito succeeded his father Emperor Hirohito, who ruled during the Showa period.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later told a press conference that the name was taken from an anthology called 'Manyoshu,' "a national book symbolising Japan's rich national culture and long traditions."

He said, "Like the flowers of the plum tree blooming proudly in spring after the cold winter, we wish the Japanese people to bloom like individual flowers with the future. With such a wish for Japan, we decided upon 'Reiwa.'"

Akihito is the first Japanese monarch in 200 years to step down, in favour of his son, Crown Prince Naruhito. The emperor's throne is called Chrysanthemum Throne. The abdication was announced on December 1, 2017, due to ill-health.

The process of choosing the name of the era has been kept a secret. Era names could coincide with calendar or even an event in Japanese history, as also political.

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