National / Politics

Reiwa topped Japan's new era name candidates after final push by Abe

JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the end of a meeting of all Cabinet ministers on April 1 that he wanted Reiwa to be the name of the next era, and his preference was approved by other participants, according to a summary of the meeting released Friday.

Abe’s final push for Reiwa came despite one minister’s argument that the name sounds similar to Showa, the era that preceded Heisei, which will end on April 30, the summary showed.

At a separate Cabinet meeting later on April 1, it was formally decided that Reiwa would be the name of the era to start on May 1.

On Friday, the government also released summaries of other era-related meetings held on April 1.

None of the summaries identified who proposed Reiwa.

Earlier on April 1, the government held a meeting with nine experts — including Nobel Prize-winning scientist Shinya Yamanaka — and met with the heads and deputy heads of both chambers of the Diet to hear their opinions about era name candidates.

At the meeting with the experts, the government explained the sources of the candidates. All nine experts were in favor of proposals cited from Japanese classical literature, with eight of the nine supporting Reiwa, according to the summaries.

The Diet heads and deputy heads generally noted that all six candidates were appropriate. One said it was fine to leave the decision to the Cabinet. But another was negative about an era name that indicates a specific season, apparently referring to Reiwa, which is derived from a poem about plum blossoms in early spring. The poem is included in “Manyoshu,” the oldest existing collection of Japanese poems, according to the summaries.

It had already come to be known that the remark was made by Upper House Vice President Akira Gunji, who is not a member of the ruling camp led by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

At the meeting of all ministers, the government explained the candidate names and opinions heard from the experts and the Diet leaders.

Four of 10 ministers who made comments at the meeting supported Reiwa, with one of them indicating that it is good for an era name to come from “Manyoshu,” the summaries showed.

Nine ministers favored Japanese literature as sources, while one minister pushed for a Chinese literature reference.

In winding up the discussions at the meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga proposed leaving the final decision to Abe.

“Based on the opinions from the experts and Cabinet members, I want Reiwa, which is derived from ‘Manyoshu,’ a Japanese literature classic, to be the new era name,” Abe said.

The government is set to compile detailed minutes from the series of meetings that will include the five candidates other than Reiwa and identify the speakers, but the records will be kept secret for 30 years in principal. It does not plan to reveal the proposers of Reiwa and other candidates even when the minutes are released.