Japan likely to announce name for next Imperial era around April 1, 2019: Suga

Kyodo

The government is likely to announce the name of the next Imperial era around April 1, 2019, a month before Crown Prince Naruhito becomes the next emperor, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Thursday.

The government will begin preparations for the change of gengō (era name) on the assumption that the new one will be announced about a month ahead of Naruhito’s ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, according to Suga.

“It takes roughly one month to adjust information systems to the new name in the public and private sectors,” Suga said, adding that they are working under an assumed timeline, and that the government has not decided the date when the name will be released.

The release of the new era name has been a matter of concern, and has a huge impact on a wide range of areas in society as it is extensively used, for example, in calendars, newspapers and official documents along with the Gregorian calendar. An era name lasts for the length of an emperor’s reign.

The top spokesman underlined that the government “will take into consideration the possible impact on the people’s lives” in deciding when to announce the name.

In a meeting involving relevant ministerial officials earlier in the day, the central government decided to urge private companies and local governments to step up their preparations to avert confusion caused by the change.

The current era, named Heisei which means “achieving peace,” began on Jan. 8, 1989 — the day after Emperor Showa, the father of the current Emperor, passed away. It will end on April 30, 2019, when Emperor Akihito abdicates.

A ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of Emperor Akihito’s reign will be held on Feb. 24, and the government has leaned toward announcing the new era name after the ceremony out of respect for the outgoing emperor.

Some in the government have expressed concerns that announcing the name considerably earlier than the new era’s actual start on May 1, 2019, could lead to a situation of dual authority between the previous and next emperors. Emperors in Japan have no political power under the nation’s postwar Constitution.

Emperor Akihito is scheduled to abdicate on April 30 next year, and will be the first living monarch in Japan to do so in about two centuries. His elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will take over the throne the following day.

For the new era, the government seeks to choose a name that is easy to read and has never been used before. Era names are traditionally composed of two Chinese characters.