Reiwa: The New Imperial Era


Photo by Image labeled for reuse by Wikimedia Commons

Article by Kyler Caldwell, Writer

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A new era is about to begin in Japan. On April 1, the name for the new Imperial Era was announced: 令和 (Reiwa). With Japanese citizens all over the nation excitedly awaiting the era’s reveal on the first day of April, it could have been the greatest “April Fools” prank of all time; however, that was not the case.



The kanji of the new era name directly translates to “order” (令) and “harmony,” (和). This made some members of the public uncomfortable, the first kanji was met with a mixed reception because of the suggestion that its meaning “order” or “command” could suggest an authoritarian government. However, in an interview with The Japan Times, members of the Foreign Ministry assured the public that the unique combination of kanji is to represent “Beautiful Harmony.”


Photo labeled for reuse by Wikimedia Commons


The title of the new Imperial Era is quite meaningful to Japanese citizens. It sets the tone and goals that Japan hopes to accomplish in the years to come; therefore, it is hoped that this era will bring a beautiful harmony.


Alongside the symbolic significance of 令和 (Reiwa), the title is also displayed on many objects and official documents such as license plates, coins, and birth certificates. It is also the traditional way that Japan counts years. For example, I was born in Heisei 16 (also known as 2004 on the Gregorian calendar), the sixteenth year in the Heisei Era.


Coming up with the names for the Imperial Era is no easy task. The strict guidelines require it to be two kanji, and that they are easy to read, and write. They also cannot be a combination of kanji that is regularly or has been previously used. No Japanese slogan, advertisement, or company can be similar to the name of the new Imperial Era, which is ironic because when searching up “Reiwa” to research this article, an Australian real estate organization called “REIWA” filled my browser. In fact, the real estate organization was trending number one on Twitter in Japan after the era announcement.


Photo labeled for reuse by Wikimedia Commons


The first day of the new Imperial Era will be May 1, 2019, the same day as the coronation of the new Emperor. This change most likely will not affect our lives in any way other than seeing the new written date, but it is nice to imagine and hope that our country will live in beautiful harmony.