Lesson Transcript

New Imperial Era “Reiwa” begins
Have you ever heard of a Japanese Imperial Era?
To present the years (as in calendars), both the common era calendar and an imperial year calendar are used in Japan.
You must have heard the name of our current imperial era, Heisei, and probably the preceding ones as well: Showa, Taisho, Meiji.
These are all names of the Japanese imperial eras since 1868, which are comprehensively called “Gengo (元号)” or sometimes “Nengo (年号)”.
Using eras to count years is a system adopted from ancient China. The first known era of Japan is “Taika (大化)” which began in the year 645 AD. Historically, names of eras have been renewed at certain events such unfortunate incidents including natural disasters, or in call for a celebration.
The crowning of a new emperor was also one of the reasons to change the era name. When the Meiji era began as the Edo period ended in 1868, an imperial edict was issued to apply one era name to one emperor. This is called “The Rule of Issei Ichigen (一世一元)”, meaning “one generation, one name”.
A new law was enacted in 1979, 54th year of Showa era, to assign a new era when a crown prince succeeds to an imperial throne. It allowed only a prince with a direct bloodline from the emperor to be named as the new emperor at the death of a sitting one.
The imperial eras are widely and commonly used in official documents, calendars and they are also engraved on Japanese coins.
Now, how is a name of an era chosen?
Here are some basic conditions in order to choose an appropriate name.
Names not used in other countries
Represents Japan’s ideology
Originated in classics
Characters to be graceful in appearance with depth in meaning
Easy to pronounce
Simple and easy characters to write and/or read
The long anticipated new name for the upcoming new imperial era was revealed on April 1st, 2019. Mr. Chief Cabinet Secretary, Suga has announced it and the emperor has signed the Cabinet order promulgating the new era name.
Japan’s era will transition from “Heisei (平成)” to “Reiwa (令和)” as the Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend to the throne on May 1st at midnight. “Reiwa” is the 248th era since the first recorded era “Taika”.
“Reiwa” can be interpreted in several ways, but the official statement explains that the two kanji characters were chosen from Manyoshu which is the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry compiled around 780AD.
Shoshun no reigetsu ni shite, ki yoku kaze yawaragi, ume wa kyōzen no kō o hiraki, ran wa haigo no kō o kaorasu.
“Pleasant and happy month during springtime
Gentle wind is breezing through
Japanese plums are blossoming like make-up powder blowing in the wind by the mirror
And the scent of orchids enveloping me entirely.”
This poetry is a part of a literature describing the beauty of Japanese plums blossoming in the spring.
One character each from the word/phrase “令月” meaning “pleasant, happy month”, and “風和ぎ”, meaning “gentle wind” that appear in this poetry were selected to create the new name “令和” for our new era.
Mr. Prime Minister Abe has emphasized that these characters also imply that “People are coming together in harmony, creating and nurturing our culture.”
This new era transition is not quite traditional. First and foremost, it is the first time in modern Japanese history that the throne will be succeeded with the sitting emperor still alive.
This early succession was decided due to the emperor’s old age which made it difficult for him to continue with his imperial duties.
Another untraditional element is that the name of the new era was announced one month prior to its implementation. This planned transition to a new era made it possible for the society to prepare for the change.
A sudden change of the imperial era may cause confusion for companies and institutions that commonly use the imperial year calendar, due to the large amount of changes such as in the system required for the transition. To minimize such negative impacts of the transition, the name of the new era was released one month in advance.
Lastly, the name “Reiwa” is based on a Japanese classic literature for the first time ever. Before this one, the sources of the names had traditionally been words and phrases from Chinese classics which have had greatly influenced our lives and culture throughout history.
Do you have your own way of counting years in your country or region you came from?


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JapanesePod101.com Verified
April 26th, 2019 at 06:30 PM
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JapanesePod101.com Verified
January 11th, 2020 at 01:27 AM
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こんにちは Sergey,

Thank you so much for pointing that out. I notified the team responsible for our video materials and we will have the correct video uploaded asap.

Thank you for studying with us. Let us know if you have further feedback. 😉

Kind regards,

レヴェンテ (Levente)

Team JapanesePod101.com

December 21st, 2019 at 09:18 PM
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I'm sorry, but when I play video from PC, browser Opera, I see "How to Say Hello in Japanese" from lesson 3 in this season, but not the video about reiwa. In mobile app - correct video.

JapanesePod101.com Verified
December 20th, 2019 at 03:39 AM
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Hi Sergey,

Thank you for the comment.

I've checked the video and it's a correct one to this lesson.


Miki H

Team JapanesePod101.com

December 14th, 2019 at 09:34 PM
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It's a wrong video, not from this lesson. Please, fix it.