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Gengo - Japanese Calendar

"Reiwa" is a name that will be on the lips of most Japanese for years to come. It's the name the Japanese government selected for the new era which is set to start when Crown Prince Naruhito becomes the new Emperor on 01 May 2019. The announcement was highly anticipated because it will define the years ahead, as well as play a daily role in people's lives. Japan's era names were taken from ancient Chinese texts in the past, but "Reiwa" is derived from the Manyoshu, the oldest anthology of Japanese poetry.

After some delay, Japan's Foreign Ministry instructed the country's ambassadors across the world to explain that the newly announced Imperial era name "Reiwa" means "beautiful harmony." Some foreign media outlets, including the BBC, reported that "Rei" can include meanings of "order" or "commands," if translated. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "We'll work towards getting the new era name widely accepted and deeply rooted in the lives of the Japanese people." Suga saif the new name was taken from Manyoshu, the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry. It comes from a passage that can be translated as: "In early spring, the air is fresh and the wind is calm. The plum flowers are blooming like a beautiful woman applying white powder in front of the mirror. And the fragrance of flowers is like that of robes scented with incense."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the name represents the hope that every Japanese person will achieve their aspirations just like a plum flower flourishing after a severe winter. He said, "Culture is nurtured when people beautifully bring their hearts together. REIWA has that meaning."

"Reiwa" is the first era name to include the character "rei." The second character, "wa," has been used 19 times before. The names with this character include "Showa" and "Wado." The word "Rei" can have meanings related to "order" but also "auspicious" and "Wa" is usually translated as "peace" or "harmony." The new name is made up of the two characters for "order" or "command," and "peace" and "harmony."

"Eiko," "Kyuka," "Koshi," "Banna," and "Banpo" were also considered. "Eiko" was sourced from classical Japanese literature, while "Koshi" was derived from both Japanese and Chinese classics. They are "The Chronicles of Japan" and "The Classic of Poetry" from "The Four Books and Five Classics," a collection that contains the basic teachings of Confucius. Chinese classics are included in the sources for "Kyuka," "Banna" and "Banpo."

The traditional Japanese calendar is based entirely on the reigns of its emperors. In Japan, AD 1999 is Year "Heisei 11," and this "11" means that it is the eleventh year of the "Heisei" Era, the reign of Emperor Akihito. Though this system is not specifically designated as the "official calendar," it is used by most Japanese people just as commonly as the Gregorian calendar. And under the law, official government documents must be dated with this system. This is the calendar system called Gengo. Telling the year by using an era system was a common tradition of most East-Asian countries. Japan, which had been using the traditional Chinese zodiac system, started using its own Gengo system in 645.

In recent years, one era name is used during an emperor's reign, but in earlier periods, the names changed more frequently such as after a natural disaster. As many as eight era names were used during the reign of one emperor. The rule of having one "Gengo" for one emperor was adopted with the start of the Meiji era in 1868. It was written in the Imperial House Law of the time.

As of the "Meiji" Era, which started in 1868 with the imperial succession of Mutsuhito, each emperor's reign constituted one Gengo: The year an emperor ascends the throne is the first year of a new era, and the era stays the same as long as the emperor reigns. For instance, Hirohito ascended the throne on December 26, 1926, and that day, the new era, "Showa," started; "Showa" lasted for 62 years and two weeks, until his death on January 7, 1989. It was also decided that, after the death of an emperor, he would be referred to by the name of the Gengo he used, not by his own name. So today, Hirohito is known to the Japanese as the Showa Emperor.

The previous Gengo, "Heisei," meaning "Achieving Peace," was unveiled only six hours after the death of Hirohito. The new year, "Heisei 1," officially began at midnight, January 8. Therefore, 1989 is regarded as both Year "Showa 64" (the first 7 days) and Year "Heisei 1" (the rest of the year).

Gengo has no year zero, with 1989, for example, called Heisei 1 instead of Heisei 0. It is also possible that two different gengo co-exist in the same year, as in 1989, when Emperor Hirohito, who represented the Showa Era (1926-1989), died on Jan. 7 that year. The first seven days of 1989 are recognized as Showa 64, while the rest is Heisei 1. Each gengo is said to represent an ideal of an era and in principle consists of two auspicious kanji, including hei (peace), ei (eternal), ten (heaven) and an (safety).

The era name is used in numerous kinds of occasions and papers -- including drivers' licenses, health insurance cards, and calendars. The process to choose a new era name involves numerous steps, lots of discussion and is shrouded in secrecy There are stringent guidelines for the selection process. The Prime Minister first chooses experts to present candidate era names. Then, he requests each expert to make two to five proposals. The experts need to keep in mind that a "Gengo" cannot merely be a combination of kanji characters. They are asked to explain the meaning and source of each one. Although the guidelines don't specify what the sources should be, many of the past era names were taken from phrases in ancient Chinese literature.

After the experts make their proposals, the Chief Cabinet Secretary screens the list based on these criteria;

  1. First... that it has a positive meaning that represents the ideals of the people;
  2. It's comprised of two kanji characters;
  3. It's easy to read and write;
  4. It hasn't been used as an era name or a posthumous name of an Emperor;
  5. And that it's not a commonly used word or phrase.
The first letter is widely used as an abbreviation for the year. For example, "H31" stands for Heisei 31, which is 2019. So the government at the time wanted a name with a different first letter. Heisei worked because the most recent era names were Meiji, Taisho and Showa. The choice of the name Reiwa reflects a wish that the new era will be peaceful like a sunny spring day. Most of the previous era names were taken from ancient Chinese texts related to Confucianism. This time the name has been chosen from an anthology of Japanese poems - the Manyoshu - the embodiment of Japanese sensibilities. As was so with the death of veteran TV celebrity Kyosen Ohashi, gengo is also used to lament the passing of an era that the deceased was synonymous with. To many Japanese, gengo is also a proud part of their identity, with phrases such as Heisei umare (born in Heisei) frequently used among todays youths to emphasize which era they were born in.

Meiji
(1867-1912)
Mutsuhito


Meiji 1 = 1868
Meiji 2 = 1869
Meiji 3 = 1870
Meiji 4 = 1871
Meiji 5 = 1872
Meiji 6 = 1873
Meiji 7 = 1874
Meiji 8 = 1875
Meiji 9 = 1876
Meiji 10 = 1877
Meiji 11 = 1878
Meiji 12 = 1879
Meiji 13 = 1880
Meiji 14 = 1881
Meiji 15 = 1882
Meiji 16 = 1883
Meiji 17 = 1884
Meiji 18 = 1885
Meiji 19 = 1886
Meiji 20 = 1887
Meiji 21 = 1888
Meiji 22 = 1889
Meiji 23 = 1890
Meiji 24 = 1891
Meiji 25 = 1892
Meiji 26 = 1893
Meiji 27 = 1894
Meiji 28 = 1895
Meiji 29 = 1896
Meiji 30 = 1897
Meiji 31 = 1898
Meiji 32 = 1899
Meiji 33 = 1900
Meiji 34 = 1901
Meiji 35 = 1902
Meiji 36 = 1903
Meiji 37 = 1904
Meiji 38 = 1905
Meiji 39 = 1906
Meiji 40 = 1907
Meiji 41 = 1908
Meiji 42 = 1909
Meiji 43 = 1910
Meiji 44 = 1911
Meiji 45 = 1912
Taisho
(1912-1926)
Yoshihito



Taishou 1 = 1912
Taishou 2 = 1913
Taishou 3 = 1914
Taishou 4 = 1915
Taishou 5 = 1916
Taishou 6 = 1917
Taishou 7 = 1918
Taishou 8 = 1919
Taishou 9 = 1920
Taishou 10 = 1921
Taishou 11 = 1922
Taishou 12 = 1923
Taishou 13 = 1924
Taishou 14 = 1925
Taishou 15 = 1926
Showa
(1926-1989)
Hirohito



Showa 1 = 1926
Showa 2 = 1927
Showa 3 = 1928
Showa 4 = 1929
Showa 5 = 1930
Showa 6 = 1931
Showa 7 = 1932
Showa 8 = 1933
Showa 9 = 1934
Showa 10 = 1935
Showa 11 = 1936
Showa 12 = 1937
Showa 13 = 1938
Showa 14 = 1939
Showa 15 = 1940
Showa 16 = 1941
Showa 17 = 1942
Showa 18 = 1943
Showa 19 = 1944
Showa 20 = 1945
Showa 21 = 1946
Showa 22 = 1947
Showa 23 = 1948
Showa 24 = 1949
Showa 25 = 1950
Showa 26 = 1951
Showa 27 = 1952
Showa 28 = 1953
Showa 29 = 1954
Showa 30 = 1955
Showa 31 = 1956
Showa 32 = 1957
Showa 33 = 1958
Showa 34 = 1959
Showa 35 = 1960
Showa 36 = 1961
Showa 37 = 1962
Showa 38 = 1963
Showa 39 = 1964
Showa 40 = 1965
Showa 41 = 1966
Showa 42 = 1967
Showa 43 = 1968
Showa 44 = 1969
Showa 45 = 1970
Showa 46 = 1971
Showa 47 = 1972
Showa 48 = 1973
Showa 49 = 1974
Showa 50 = 1975
Showa 51 = 1976
Showa 52 = 1977
Showa 53 = 1978
Showa 54 = 1979
Showa 55 = 1980
Showa 56 = 1981
Showa 57 = 1982
Showa 58 = 1983
Showa 59 = 1984
Showa 60 = 1985
Showa 61 = 1986
Showa 62 = 1987
Showa 63 = 1988
Showa 64 = 1989
Heisei
(1989-2019)
Akihito


Heisei 1 = 1989
Heisei 2 = 1990
Heisei 3 = 1991
Heisei 4 = 1992
Heisei 5 = 1993
Heisei 6 = 1994
Heisei 7 = 1995
Heisei 8 = 1996
Heisei 9 = 1997
Heisei 10 = 1998
Heisei 11 = 1999
Heisei 12 = 2000
Heisei 13 = 2001
Heisei 14 = 2002
Heisei 15 = 2003
Heisei 16 = 2004
Heisei 17 = 2005
Heisei 18 = 2006
Heisei 19 = 2007
Heisei 20 = 2008
Heisei 21 = 2009
Heisei 22 = 2010
Heisei 23 = 2011
Heisei 24 = 2012
Heisei 25 = 2013
Heisei 26 = 2014
Heisei 27 = 2015
Heisei 28 = 2016
Heisei 29 = 2017
Heisei 30 = 2018
Heisei 31 = 2019
Reiwa
[2019-20xx]
Naruhito


Reiwa 1 = 2019
Reiwa 2 = 2020
Reiwa 3 = 2021
Reiwa 4 = 2022
Reiwa 5 = 2023
Reiwa 6 = 2024
Reiwa 7 = 2025
Reiwa 8 = 2026
Reiwa 9 = 2027
Reiwa 10 = 2028
Reiwa 11 = 2029
Reiwa 12 = 2030
Reiwa 13 = 2031
Reiwa 14 = 2032
Reiwa 15 = 2033
Reiwa 16 = 2034
Reiwa 17 = 2035
Reiwa 18 = 2036
Reiwa 19 = 2037
Reiwa 20 = 2038
Reiwa 21 = 2039
Reiwa 22 = 2040
Reiwa 23 = 2041
Reiwa 24 = 2042
Reiwa 25 = 2043
Reiwa 26 = 2044
Reiwa 27 = 2045
Reiwa 28 = 2046
Reiwa 29 = 2047
Reiwa 30 = 2048




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