The government is likely to announce the name of the next era in mid-April, ahead of the May 1 change of the name from the current Heisei, according to informed sources.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make a final decision on the timing as conservative members of his ruling party insist that the next emperor should proclaim the new era name.
Crown Prince Naruhito is scheduled to accede to the throne on May 1, the day after his father, Emperor Akihito, abdicates. Abe has described 2019 as a year that will take Japan forward to the future beyond the Heisei Era.
The government plans to narrow down candidates for the new name to one after hearing opinions from experts and Diet leaders.
The Cabinet will then adopt an ordinance on the era name and the current Emperor will sign it for proclamation.
The last name change was in 1989, from Showa to Heisei, after Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor Showa, died. The Heisei Era began on Jan. 8, the day after the name was proclaimed.
The government plans to withdraw any candidate for the era name if it is reported by media before it is officially adopted, a senior official said. Cabinet members, who meet to adopt the ordinance on the era name, will be banned from carrying mobile phones to prevent leaks.
The Prime Minister’s Office thinks there needs to be a lag between the proclamation of the era name and its implementation to allow for sufficient preparations, including computer system adjustments.
A likely option is that the era name will be proclaimed after April 10, when a ceremony is scheduled to take place to mark the 30th anniversary of the enthronement of Emperor Akihito, the sources said.
Conservative members of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party claim that the new era name should be proclaimed by the next emperor, because an era name essentially belongs to an emperor.
The Prime Minister’s Office is against having the new emperor proclaim the era name, saying it could violate Article 4 of the Constitution, which bans involvement in politics by emperors.
In addition, the Prime Minister’s Office argues that if the era name is proclaimed and put into use on May 1, the new and old era names will coexist that day, causing a hassle for the public.