National

Japan to keep official records of new era name's selection process

Kyodo

Following concerns over how official documents were handled in the changeover from Showa to Heisei, the government will officially record the process of selecting the new era name that will be announced Monday, government sources have said.

Among a set of documents to be kept for a maximum 30 years under the law will be calligraphy of the gengō (era name) that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is expected to show in an announcement Monday, the sources said Saturday.

The era name change will come on May 1 when Crown Prince Naruhito is due to ascend the throne, taking over from his father, Emperor Akihito, who is set to abdicate on April 30.

A panel of representatives from the business world, academia and media organizations will review proposed candidate names Monday morning and an outline of their discussions will also be part of the documents.

Following the announcement by the top government spokesman, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to explain its meaning and detail the literary work from which it is derived. But the government is unlikely to reveal further details that day, including other candidate names that were discussed.

Still, the government plans to keep records of such proposals, including over who came up with the ideas, the sources said.

The government’s move comes amid growing calls for proper management of official documents and archives to ensure the public’s right to know is protected.

Under the law, the government is required to keep official documents for a maximum 30 years, after which they will be moved to the National Archives of Japan or discarded with the consent of the prime minister.

Japan adopted the current era name, Heisei, meaning “achieving peace,” in 1989 following the death of Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

The calligraphy of Heisei, shown publicly for the first time by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Keizo Obuchi, was temporarily kept at Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita’s house, prompting calls for the government to improve how it keeps official documents. At the time, Japan did not have the current legal framework concerning official documents.

Official documents related to the era name change from Showa to Heisei remain classified as the government decided to keep them confidential for five more years. They are due to be made public in April 2024.