This is a historic moment for Japan. For the first time in over 200 years, the emperor, Akihito, will relinquish the Chrysanthemum throne in favor of his son, Prince Naruhito.
Each emperor of Japan is thought to usher in a new era in the country’s history, with the current imperial era known as Heisei, i.e. “achieving peace.” The new era will be called Reiwa, i.e. “fortunate harmony.” The name of the new imperial era (or gengo) is extremely important to the Japanese as it’s used just about everywhere in Japan: on coins, official paperwork, newspapers, and on calendars as a way of marking time.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, revealed the gengo made of two Kanji characters live on TV and announced, “We hope the new era name will be widely accepted by the public and become deeply rooted in the lives of the Japanese people.”
Picking the gengo carries a great deal of responsibility and is a secretive affair. The panel of nine tasked with choosing the name out of five options was kept in a bug-free room at the prime minister’s office, and members were required to hand in their phones and other electronic devices to prevent leaks.
Akihito, who is 85 years old, was motivated to abdicate largely due to his fear that his advanced years would prevent him from carrying out his official duties. The new era will officially begin on May 1.