National

Government considering terms from Japanese classics, rather than Chinese, for nation's next era name

Kyodo, JIJI

Options under consideration for the next Imperial era name, which will be unveiled April 1, are believed to include terms adapted from Japanese classics despite past era names typically being drawn from Chinese classics, government sources have said.

In Japan the era name is used throughout an emperor’s reign, appearing in calendars and on official documents. Past era names with identifiable sources were all drawn from Chinese classics, as the era system originates in China.

The current Heisei Era, which began on Jan. 8, 1989, will end when Emperor Akihito abdicates on April 30. The next era name will become effective May 1, when Crown Prince Naruhito ascends the throne.

The Japanese government on March 14 commissioned scholars to make their proposals for the next era name, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Sunday during a visit to Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.

The government’s procedures call for each of a small number of scholars to be asked to propose about two to five names, attaching explanations about why they made the proposals.

The scholars are believed to be experts on Japanese and Chinese literature and Japanese and Asian history. The submitted proposals are kept in a safe in the room of Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuyuki Furuya.

Suga said Monday, however, that the government will not disclose the names of the scholars even after the announcement of the new era name, saying that both the government and the scholars themselves think making the names public is inappropriate.

Suga will narrow down the possible new names to around three, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make the final selection. The government plans to announce the name of the new era on April 1.

Even if the new era name is inspired by a piece of classical Japanese literature, it may still have its roots in Chinese literature.

“There are many Japanese classics written in Chinese style that can be traced back to Chinese classics,” said one expert. “The more formal a word is, the more likely it is to originate in Chinese classics.”

The term Heisei, meaning “achieving peace,” comes from phrases in Chinese classics. It was chosen from three candidates, the other two being Shubun and Seika.