On the 30th of April 2019, the current Emperor of Japan will step down. His son will take his place on the first of May.
An emperor hasn’t abdicated in over 200 years, so this will be a huge event in Japanese history. Usually emperors hold their title until they pass away. The Emperor does not just a hold position of respect and power. It is a holy title.
The word in Japanese for emperor , 天皇陛下 (Tennou Heika) means His Majesty the Heavenly Sovereign.
The first emperor, Jimmu, was the legendary descendant of Ameterasu the sun goddess and the storm god Susano.
So the Emperor of Japan is revered as a descendant of heaven.
This April 1st at 11:30am , people all over Japan were sitting in front of their TV screens and huge monitors in Tokyo to watch as the name of the new era was announced.
There had been so much speculation about what the era would be called in the run up to the announcement. Companies ran contests to guess the name and social media was full of people sharing their ideas and hopes for the new era.
This is the 31st year of the Heisei 平成 (achieving peace) era. The preceding era was called Showa 昭和 (enlightened harmony).
Era names are often chosen from old Chinese texts. The kanji (Chinese characters) chosen must be easy to write and to remember, as the era name is used often in documents, drivers licenses and daily life!
The announcement was made, and the new era name is..Reiwa! 令和。
Rei means auspicious or beautiful and Wa means peace or harmony.
(I heard that a few people felt that Rei which can also mean “order” sounded a little harsh, but the majority are happy with the meaning of a peaceful harmony)
Many people were surprised by the slightly unusual decision. The kanji were chosen from a classic Japanese text rather than Chinese. The text is a book of poetry called the “Manyoshu” – Collection of Ten Thoisand Leaves.
The particular poem describes plum blossoms and gentle breezes in early spring.
Prime minister Abe said : “The era name represents a culture being born and nurtured by people’s hearts coming together beautifully,” he said.
As for me, I think it sounds beautiful!
I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of little girls born this year have “Rei” or “Wa” Kanji in their names!
I’m excited and hopeful about the new era. The dawn of Heisei was a little sad as it came after the death of Emperor Showa. The Heisei Era saw the Japanese economy boom and then slump, and sadly many natural disasters occurred.
The new era is being welcomed with joy and positivity. With the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and World Fair in Osaka there are many things to look forward to.
I hope Reiwa will be remembered as a peaceful and prosperous age in Japan.
Fuji Family xx