Japan’s New Era “Reiwa”(令和時代): What Japanese think of the new name?

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  • We have all been waiting for the announcement of the New Era, and the latest news and TV shows have been all about the end of Heisei, its good time and a new beginning about to start, a new name for a new chapter.

    The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe affirmed in a press conference that they would like to “pick a name that heralds a new era full of hope”(希望に満ちあふれた新しい時代につながる新元号に/Kibou ni michi afureta atarashii jidai ni tsunagaru shin gengou ni).

    With that said, the name of the new era has been decided to be Reiwa(令和), the characters meaning “command/order and “peace”.

    The release of the new era: 令和時代(Reiwa Period)

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    Author’s photo

    The Era, the 248th of its kind, will start in May as Prince Naruhito will be ascending to the throne after the Emperor Akihito.
    An era changing represents a big deal in Japan, as you’ll see the era names in official documents, calendars, whenever you go to the city hall or hospital, and fill in a form.

    Era names, also called “gengo”(元号), usually represent the length or the period of rule of an Emperor; however, as Emperor Akihito will be stepping out on 30th of April, it was decided that the new era’s name will be announced prior to the succession.

    Throwback to Heisei

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    Heisei(平成, which would be translated as “achieving peace”, started on the 8th of January, 1989, after the death of Emperor Hirohito, also known as the Emperor of Showa.

    The Heisei period marked a time of remarkable economic growth and many other important events in Japan; however, it was also a period when Japan suffered because of the big earthquake on 11th March, 2011 and many other calamities such as heavy rainfalls and typhoons around the country.

    Era-Name System in Japan

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    Japan is the only country that still uses an era system and even though the opinions are split, some support naming the eras as there is much history behind each of it, full of events, Japan’s tradition and culture.

    Japan’s first gengo was Taika way back in 645 A.D., and modern Japan was represented by Meiji Jidai(Meiji Era/Period), Taisho, Showa and lastly, Heisei, names drawn from Chinese classics.

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    It was announced that one month preparation will be enough to update the calendars with the new era name and people are excited to see what Reiwa will bring from now on.

    What do people think of the new name?

    A few minutes before the announcement, people standing at the intersection in Tokyo, Shibuya and preparing to take a photo of the historical moment that is about to announce the new name and beginning of a new era … it’s time! Everybody is quiet and about to take a photo of the large screen: It was decided that the new name will be REIWA(令 和), Reiwa Jidai(Reiwa Era). Some people look puzzled, others have a disagreeing expression, some repeat the word to themselves “-Reiwa..” and seem to contemplate a bit putting their thoughts in order.

    So, what do people think of it? Here is what some replied:

    Many people replied that “I think it’s a good thing that the meaning of peace(平和/Heiwa) was included” or that”It is easy to remember and easy to write, so I think is a good name”, therefore they think is a well-chosen name.
    However, there were also disapproving opinions such as “I think it’s too rigid” or “it sounds lame”.
    Some people were saying that “it’s hard to get used to the fact that Heisei will be over and from now on will be Reiwa…it’s sad and I still can’t grasp the situation”.

    Nevertheless, the name was already chosen and all we can do is try to get used to the fact that a new era will begin staring from May.

    Reiwa goods already on sale

    Only a few minutes after the announcement, shops already started printing out papers, bags, making cookies, Tshirts with Reiwa imprinted on it, releasing new “Reiwa” sake brands etc.

    So if you are in Japan, try checking the new products and maybe get a nice and unique souvenir with the name of Japan’s new era imprinted on it.

    What do you think of the new name ? Comment down below and let us now!