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.