Public records with an emperor’s seal and handwritten signature, as well as Cabinet meeting documents signed by ministers, are expected to fall outside the scope of the digital archiving process used by the government.

The government considers it essential to save such public records in paper form in order to preserve their historical value, officials said.

An emperor’s signature and seal are needed for the promulgation of laws and treaties. For example, Emperor Akihito signed and affixed his seal to the ordinance on the new era name, Reiwa, which was announced Monday.

Cabinet ministers customarily put distinctive handwritten signatures, called kao, on Cabinet meeting documents.

On March 25, the government adopted a basic policy on the electronic management of administrative records, stipulating that digital versions of administrative records drawn up from now on would be systematically managed as the authentic and original texts of such records.

The policy is aimed at preventing a recurrence of scandals, such as the tampering of Finance Ministry records related to a controversial discounted sale of state land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen, and at improving the efficiency of public record management.

The government plans to review such operations and widen the scope of records subject to digital archiving, the officials said.

But the government will make an exception for records that must be saved in paper form to preserve their historical value.

An official of the Cabinet Office said paper records with an emperor’s signature and seal and those with kao signatures by Cabinet ministers should be regarded as the original texts.

The handwritten kanji used for the new era name’s announcement is expected to be preserved in paper form as a public record.

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