Name of New Japanese Era Announced April Fool’s Day – But It’s Not a Joke


Jenna Miller, Editor in Chief

As the current Japanese emperor Akihito (明仁) steps down April 30, with his son, and Crown Prince of Japan, Naruhito (徳仁) preparing to rule Japan beginning May 1, the Japanese government decided on the new name for the era to come – and though this announcement was on April 1, it was no joke.

Whenever Japan chooses its new emperor, a new “era” begins in Japan. Akihito’s era, which began in 1989, was called the Heisei (平成) era. “Heisei” means to achieve peace. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga revealed the name of the incoming era under Naruhito to be “Reiwa” (令和). The meaning of Reiwa is “fair and harmonious”; the character “wa” (和) in Reiwa also can be used to mean “Japan” or “Japanese” as it is part of the imperial name of Japan, Yamato (大和).

The name “Reiwa” was derived from a poem in the Man’yoshu, a national book filled with poems that symbolize the Japanese culture and traditions. At a press conference held by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he stated. “Like the flowers of the plum tree blooming proudly in spring after the cold winter, we wish the Japanese people to bloom like individual flowers with the (promise of the) future. With such a wish for Japan, we decided upon ‘Reiwa.'”

A week after the name of the Reiwa era was announced, it was also revealed by Finance Minister Taro Aso that new designs for the ¥10,000, ¥5,000 and ¥1,000 yen banknotes will be coming in 2024. The ¥1,000 and ¥5,000 bill will honor the Japanese scientist Shibasaburo Kitasato and female scholar and educational pioneer Umeko Tsuda, respectively, while the ¥10,000 bill will be adorned with an image of “the father of Japanese capitalism”, Eiichi Shibusawa.