National / Politics

Japan may not announce new era name until April 11: sources

Kyodo

The government may hold off on announcing the name of the country’s new era until April 11 or later, ahead of the ascension of the new Emperor on May 1, government sources said Wednesday.

The government has proceeded with preparations for the change of the gengō (era name), including the update of government ministry and agency information systems, on the assumption that it would be announced around a month before Crown Prince Naruhito accedes the throne.

The idea of pushing back the announcement of the new era name by around 10 days has been considered as a cross-party group of lawmakers, including conservatives in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, look to leave the first part of the month open for a festival commemorating the 30th anniversary of the enthronement of Emperor Akihito on April 10, the sources said.

Gengō is used for the length of an emperor’s reign. While many Japanese frequently use the Gregorian calendar as well as gengō, the announcement of the new era remains of public interest as it is widely used in calendars, newspapers and official documents.

The government concluded that pushing back the timing of the announcement by around 10 days would not negatively impact the preparation by government agencies, according to the sources.

Abe is expected to make a final judgment as to when to announce the new era name by the end of the year, the sources added.

The Heisei Era, which means “achieving peace,” commenced on Jan. 8, 1989, the day after the death of Emperor Hirohito, the father of the current Emperor and posthumously known as Emperor Showa. It will end on April 30 next year, when Emperor Akihito abdicates.

In a rare video message in August 2016, he expressed his desire to step down, citing concerns about his advanced age and weakening health. An emperor has not abdicated in about 200 years.