Understanding the Japanese Era Name Change

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Understanding the Japanese Era Name Change

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What are Era Names in Japan? 2.1 History and Significance of Era Names 2.2 Era Names as Calendar System 2.3 Usage in Official Documents and Newspapers
  3. The Change of Era Names 3.1 Emperor Akito's Abdication 3.2 Introduction of the Reywa Era 3.3 Selection Process of the New Era Name
  4. The Meaning and Symbolism of the Reywa Era 4.1 Translation of the Name 4.2 Prime Minister's Explanation 4.3 Concerns and Controversies
  5. Unexpected Effects of the New Era Name 5.1 Impact on Australian Property Market
  6. Conclusion

The Era Names of Japan and the Dawn of the Reywa Era


In recent news, Japan has captured global attention with the announcement of a new era name, marking the end of the current era, Heisei. Era names hold significant cultural significance in Japan, serving as a way to divide and study different periods in history. They are not only used for academic purposes but also as part of the everyday calendar system. This article aims to explore the concept of era names in Japan, shed light on the selection process of the new era name, delve into the meaning and symbolism of the Reywa era, and highlight some unexpected effects of this announcement.

What are Era Names in Japan?

History and Significance of Era Names

Era names, also known as gengou, have been a part of Japanese history for centuries. The formalization of Japanese history and the establishment of era names can be traced back to Emperor Kotaku in 645 AD. Since then, Japan has witnessed 239 era names, with each new era typically introduced with the ascension of a new emperor.

Era Names as Calendar System

Unlike the Western calendar system, which is widely used around the world, many Japanese people still rely on era names as their primary calendar system. While the Western calendar has gained popularity over time, some individuals in Japan use both systems interchangeably. In addition to personal use, era names are also seen on official documents, newspapers, and even coins.

The Change of Era Names

Emperor Akito's Abdication

The upcoming change in era name is a result of Emperor Akito's decision to abdicate the throne, ending his first-year reign as the Emperor of Japan. Planned for May 1, 2019, this abdication marks a significant moment in Japanese history, as it will be the first time in over two centuries that an emperor voluntarily steps down. Crown Prince Naruhito is set to succeed his father and become the new emperor.

Introduction of the Reywa Era

The current era, Heisei, which began on January 8, 1989, is coming to an end. Following tradition, a new era name was announced in advance, named Reywa. Departing from the usual practice of selecting era names from Chinese texts, Reywa is derived from a compilation of Japanese poetry called the Manyoshu. This unconventional choice reflects a shift in embracing Japan's rich cultural heritage.

Selection Process of the New Era Name

The selection of the new era name involved a panel of experts comprising Japanese novelists, professors, and business figures. The process was conducted in secrecy, and the name was officially revealed to the press and the public on April 1, 2019. The name Reywa translates to "good peace" or "beautiful harmony" in English, symbolizing the hope for a positive and harmonious future.

The Meaning and Symbolism of the Reywa Era

Translation of the Name

The first character of the Reywa era name means "good" or "beautiful," while the second character signifies "peace" or "harmony." The name was carefully chosen to reflect Japan's desire for a peaceful and harmonious era. It encapsulates the nation's cultural pride and the enduring beauty of its nature.

Prime Minister's Explanation

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized that the new era name was selected to mark the beginning of an era filled with hope. He stated that the choice of name from the Manyoshu compilation highlights Japan's rich culture, something the nation should take pride in. The government aims to project a positive image of Japan and convey a sense of optimism for the future.

Concerns and Controversies

Despite the excitement surrounding the new era name, some members of the Japanese public have expressed concerns regarding the first character, "wa," which can also mean "command" or "order." While it is understandable that people may be hesitant about living in an era with a name that implies being commanded, the government reassures citizens that in the context of the era name, "wa" signifies peace and harmony.

Unexpected Effects of the New Era Name

Impact on Australian Property Market

In a surprising turn of events, the announcement of the Reywa era name has inadvertently affected the Australian property market. The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia reported a significant increase in website visitors since the announcement, attributing it to the resemblance between the initials of the new era name and their own acronym.


As Japan prepares for the transition to the Reywa era, the significance of era names becomes apparent. They serve not only as a means to study history but also as a cultural identifier and calendar system. The selection of the new era name marks a departure from tradition and showcases Japan's unique cultural heritage. While there may be initial concerns and debates, the Reywa era symbolizes a hopeful and harmonious future for Japan.

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