The name of the upcoming Imperial era, Reiwa, was added to the list of candidates after mid-March during the last stage of the government’s selection process, according to sources.
The number of era name proposals stood between 20 and 30 as of late January before Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga started the process of narrowing down the list, the sources said Wednesday.
As of early March, Reiwa was still not on the list, and it apparently emerged after Suga on March 14 officially asked experts of Japanese literature, Chinese literature, Japanese history and East Asian history to come up with more proposals, the sources said.
In the end, the government had six proposals, including Reiwa.
The choice of the next era name, or gengō, was a closely guarded secret and its announcement gripped the country. It will be used on things ranging from official documents and calendars to driver’s licenses.
Still, details of the selection process remain mostly under wraps.
An expert, Susumu Nakanishi, who is well-versed with “Manyoshu” — Japan’s oldest poetry anthology — from which Reiwa was derived, had prior to the announcement expressed a willingness to talk to the media once the name was officially revealed.
But he reversed course Sunday and decided he wouldn’t speak to the press after the announcement.
It has been revealed that the government secured near-unanimous approval for Reiwa from the panel that met on Monday to review the six proposals.
The panel included experts handpicked by Suga from various fields such as academia, business and media to reflect diverse views.
“The atmosphere in the room was that everyone thought Reiwa was the best fit,” one participant said.
Cabinet ministers later endorsed the name after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed that it be selected, according to the sources.
Abe has said “Manyoshu” symbolizes Japan’s rich culture and long tradition and that the new era name means “culture coming into being and flourishing when people bring their hearts and minds together in a beautiful manner.”
The government unveiled the new name on Monday and has translated the name as “beautiful harmony.”
Crown Prince Naruhito is set to ascend to the throne on May 1, taking over from his father Emperor Akihito.
A gengō is used during an emperor’s reign. Reiwa became the first era name to break with tradition and be derived from a Japanese classic rather than a Chinese work.