LDP faces opposition from conservatives over prerelease of Japan’s new era name

JIJI

The government is struggling to set the specific timing for the announcement of the nation’s new era name, ahead of its planned start on May 1 next year, with conservatives opposing release of the name before the era begins.

The switch from the current Heisei Era, which began in 1989, will coincide with the enthronement of Crown Prince Naruhito as the new emperor. Emperor Akihito is scheduled to abdicate on April 30 that year.

The government is proceeding with preparations to announce the new era name a month before the change to try and prevent confusion in people’s daily lives, but some conservatives say the announcement should come on the accession date.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who draws strong support from conservative voters, plans to postpone a decision on the matter for the time being in order to avoid an impact on his Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership election next month. Abe is likely to seek a third consecutive term as LDP president.

Legally, era names must be set by a government ordinance and revised only when an Imperial succession takes place. The Cabinet adopts such an ordinance and the Emperor promulgates it, according to the law.

The government believes there are no legal issues preventing it from deciding on a new era name before the Imperial succession, officials said.

A supplementary resolution adopted in line with the enactment last year of special legislation allowing Emperor Akihito to step down called on the government to prevent possible problems stemming from the era name change in people’s daily lives.

In May this year, after a survey of the public and private sectors, the government decided to proceed with preparations, including computer system revisions for government ministries and agencies, under the scenario that a new era name will be released a month before the Imperial succession date.

“Unlike past changes in era names following the deaths of Emperors, the public has built-in expectations for the prerelease” of a new era name, a Cabinet Secretariat official said.

The organ of Jinja Honcho, the Association of Shinto Shrines, stated its opposition to an early announcement in an editorial in the June 25 edition. It argued that the government should respect the process in which a new era name is promulgated as a government decree and made public after the approval of a new emperor, given that the era name should be associated with the emperor.

At a July meeting of bipartisan lawmakers who support the nationalist group Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi), some participants also voiced their opposition to the possible prerelease.

On Aug. 6, Keiji Furuya, chairman of the House of Representatives steering committee and head of the Nippon Kaigi-linked bipartisan lawmakers group, lodged a request with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga calling for the promulgation of a new era name by the new emperor.

Struggling to find a solution to the matter, the government temporarily considered releasing a tentative new era name and promulgating it on the accession date. But the proposal was scrapped due to opposition to the idea of announcing an era name that has not been finalized, government sources said.

“There will be no moves on the issue of a new era name until the (LDP) leadership election ends,” according to a government official.