The Chrysanthemum Throne Enters The Reiwa Era

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The Chrysanthemum Throne Enters The Reiwa Era

Postby toucana on April 1st, 2019, 7:38 pm 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces the new Reiwa era

Japan’s Emperor Akihito will abdicate at the end of April and step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne in favour of his heir the Crown Prince Naruhito - the first time this has happened in Japan for some 200 years.

Following Japanese tradition, the former Emperor Akihito will henceforth be known by what will become the eponymous period name title of his reign era which is Heisei 平成. In normal circumstances this would be the former Emperor’s enduring posthumous name.

The impending succession means that a new era name had to be chosen, and after much deliberation, the Japanese government has announced that the new era will be called Reiwa 令和 which is composed of two Chinese characters meaning ‘Beauty’ and ‘Harmony’.

The choice of a new era name in Japan is full of many exquisite scholarly subtleties. The fact that the new name Reiwa is drawn from an 8th century anthology of Japanese poetry called the Manyoshu (万葉集 - ‘Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves') rather than from a more traditional classical Chinese text is seen by many as a nod towards a potent mood of conservative Japanese populism in the country at present.

The choice of the 'wa' character, for example, which is the same as the character used for the Showa 昭和 era of Naruhito's grandfather, Emperor Hirohito, could be consistent with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ongoing efforts to try to promote a more positive narrative of Japan's wartime past.

The current Heisei Era began in 1989, when Akihito succeeded his father Emperor Hirohito, who ruled during the Showa period and is now known as the Showa Emperor. It will come to a close on April 30, the day Akihito abdicates.

Eras are also part of the traditional calendrical system in Japan. For example 2018 was Heisei 30, coming three decades after the era began. Microsoft has warned that Japanese computer software, most of which was written in the Heisei era, could face a Y2K moment, because Japanese calendar years are described by a combination of the year and era name.

According to public broadcaster NHK, a survey last month found that about 20% of companies had not checked whether calendars in their software use the Japanese system.

"Industry ministry officials warn that insufficient preparations could lead to unrecognized dates and the possibility of data-processing errors," NHK reported.
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