|History of Japan|
Reiwa (Japanese: 令和, pronounced [ɾeːɰa] (listen)) is the current era of Japan. It began on 1 May 2019, the day on which Emperor Akihito's elder son, Naruhito, ascended the throne as the 126th Emperor of Japan. The day before, then-Emperor Akihito abdicated the Chrysanthemum Throne, marking the end of the Heisei era. The year 2019 corresponds with Heisei 31 from 1 January through 30 April, and with Reiwa 1 (令和元年 Reiwa gannen, 'the first year of Reiwa') from 1 May. Reiwa is interpreted as "beautiful harmony".
The Japanese government on 1 April 2019 announced the name during a live televised press conference, as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga traditionally revealed the kanji calligraphy on a board. Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said that Reiwa represents "a culture being born and nurtured by people coming together beautifully".
A shortlist of names for the new era was drawn up by a nine-member expert panel comprising seven men and two women with the cabinet selecting the final name from the shortlist. The nine experts were:
The day after the announcement, the government revealed that the other candidate names under consideration had been Eikō (英弘), Kyūka (久化), Kōshi or Kōji (広至), Banna or Banwa (万和), and Banpo or Banhō (万保), three of which were sourced from two Japanese works, the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki. Official pronunciations and meanings of these names were not released, although the reading of Eikō was leaked; the other readings are speculative. Predicted guess names included An'ei (安永) and Heiwa (平和).
The kanji characters for Reiwa are derived from the Man'yōshū, an eighth-century (Nara period) anthology of waka poetry. The kotobagaki (headnote) attached to a group of 32 poems (815–846) in Volume 5 of the collection, composed on the occasion of a poetic gathering to view the plum blossoms, reads as follows:
Classical Japanese translation (kanbun kundoku):
Toki ni, shoshun no reigetsu ni shite, kiyoku kaze yawaragi, ume wa kyōzen no ko o hiraki, ran wa haigo no kō o kaorasu.
It was in new spring, in a fair (rei) month,
When the air was clear and the wind a gentle (wa) breeze.
Plum flowers blossomed a beauty's charming white
And the fragrance of the orchids was their sweet perfume.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry provided an English-language interpretation of Reiwa as "beautiful harmony", to dispel reports that "Rei" (令) here is translated as "command" or "order" – which aside from "auspicious" are the more common meanings of the character in modern Japanese. The Foreign Ministry also noted that "beautiful harmony" is rather an explanation than an official translation or legally binding.
In addition, "Reiwa" marks the first Japanese era name with characters that were taken from Japanese classical literature instead of classic Chinese literature. The Chinese foreign ministry responded to a question from the Japanese media on this by saying that it is an internal matter for Japan to choose an era name, and expressing good wishes for Sino-Japanese relations.
According to Masaaki Tatsumi (辰巳正明), professor of Japanese literature, and Masaharu Mizukami (水上雅晴), professor of Chinese philosophy, interviewed by the Asahi Shimbun shortly after the announcement was made, the phrase has an earlier source in ancient Chinese literature dating back to the second century AD, on which the Man'yōshū usage is allegedly based:
Yù shì zhòng chūn lìng yuè, shí hé qì qīng; yuán xí yù mào, bǎi cǎo zī róng.
Then comes young spring, in a fine month,
When the wind is mild and the air clear.
Plains and swamps are overgrown with verdure
And the hundred grasses become rank and thick.
Robert Campbell, director-general of National Institute of Japanese Literature in Tokyo, provided an official televised interpretation to NHK, regarding the characters based on the poem,[clarification needed] noting that "Rei" is an auspicious wave of energy of the plum blossoms carried by the wind, and "Wa", the general character of peace and tranquility.
Accordingly, the name marks the 248th era name designated in Japanese history. While the "wa" character 和 has been used in 19 previous era names, the "rei" character 令 has never appeared before. The character appeared in a proposed era name in 1864—Reitoku (令徳)—that the ruling Tokugawa shogunate rejected, as it could be interpreted as the emperor commanding (rei) the Tokugawa.
According to the Japan Mint, which is responsible for producing Japanese currency, all coins with the new era name will be released by October 2019. It takes three months to make preparations such as creating molds in order to input text or pictures. The Mint will prioritize creating 100- and 500-yen coins due to their high mintage and circulation, with an anticipated release by the end of July 2019.
Anticipating the coming of the new era, in September 2018, the Unicode Consortium reserved a code point (U+32FF ㋿ SQUARE ERA NAME REIWA) for a new glyph which will combine half-width versions of Reiwa's kanji, 令 and 和, into a single character; similar code points exist for earlier era names, including Shōwa (U+337C ㍼ SQUARE ERA NAME SYOUWA) and Heisei (U+337B ㍻ SQUARE ERA NAME HEISEI) periods. The resulting new version of Unicode, 12.1.0, was released on 7 May 2019.
| Era of Japan
1 May 2019 – present