Crown Prince Naruhito nodded with a gentle smile when he learned Monday that the government had picked Reiwa as the next era name, to be used during his reign from May 1, an official with the Imperial Household Agency said.
“I understand,” he was quoted as telling Yasuhiko Nishimura, the vice grand steward of the agency who explained the meaning of the new era name to the Crown Prince prior to the announcement made to the public before noon.
With Emperor Akihito set to abdicate on April 30, the first Japanese monarch to do so in about 200 years, the government unveiled the new era name to both the Emperor and the Crown Prince in advance.
The 85-year-old Emperor looked calm as usual when he heard about the two kanji characters that will replace the current era name, Heisei, according to agency Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto.
The name Reiwa is drawn from “Manyoshu,” the country’s earliest extant collection of Japanese poetry.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has explained that the name means culture coming into being and flourishing when people bring their hearts and minds together in a beautiful manner.
Reiwa literally means “beautiful harmony,” according to the government.
“I’m very much relieved because I was extremely nervous, being aware of the heavy responsibility of deciding a gengō (era name),” Abe told a TV program later Monday.
The selection of an era name from a Japanese classic for the first time in the history of gengō, which date back to the 7th century, is seen as an attempt to show pride in what Abe said is Japan’s rich culture and long tradition.
An era name is used for the length of an emperor’s reign.
The current Heisei Era, the name of which means “achieving peace,” has been used since 1989 when Emperor Akihito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne following the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.