End of an era: Japan sets date for naming of new epoch as Emperor Akihito prepares to abdicate

  • The new era name will be announced on April 1, exactly a month before the ascension of the new emperor, according to a government source
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, 5:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, 5:40pm

Japan plans to announce the name of its first new era for three decades on April 1, exactly a month before the ascension of a new emperor.

The announcement is likely to be made on the same day as the new gengo, or era name, is adopted at a Cabinet meeting before Crown Prince Naruhito becomes the new emperor in place of incumbent Emperor Akihito, a government source said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose government has proceeded with preparations for the era name change, is expected to unveil the plan during a news conference on Friday, according to the source.

Under the plan, the government on April 1 will hear opinions from experts in various fields, as well as the chiefs and deputies of both houses of parliament, about multiple candidate names before Cabinet approval and proclamation by the emperor.

A gengo is used for the length of an emperor’s reign. While many Japanese frequently use the Gregorian calendar as well as the gengo, the announcement of the new era name remains of public interest as it is widely used in calendars, newspapers and officials documents.

The current Heisei era, which means “achieving peace,” commenced on January 8, 1989, the day after Emperor Showa, the father of the current emperor widely known as Emperor Hirohito, died. It will end on April 30 next year, when the sitting emperor abdicates.

In a rare video message in August 2016, Emperor Akihito, 85, expressed his desire to step down – the first living Japanese monarch in about 200 years to do so – citing concerns about his advanced age and weakening health.

Japan prepares to bid farewell to its emperor with a common touch