The government relied heavily on the internet when checking that the new era name, Reiwa, was not already in common use as the name of places, companies or organizations.
The research method was a world away from the approach taken the previous time the government changed the country’s era name, from Showa to the current Heisei in 1989.
A requirement for a new era name is that it is not a commonly used term, but no clear standards have been set out on how to determine whether it is.
“We don’t adopt names seen in many places, such as those of pachinko parlors or bars,” a source at the Prime Minister’s Office explained. “Those used widely as personal names aren’t adopted either.”
“We were able to check whether candidate era names were commonly used far more extensively than 30 years ago, mainly through the internet,” said Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuyuki Furuya, who was in charge of the latest era name selection process.
Soon after the Heisei Era began, in 1989, it came to light that a place called Henari, which uses the same kanji characters as Heisei, exists in Gifu Prefecture. Those involved in the selection of Heisei had been unaware.
Internet searches were useful for narrowing down proposed era names this time, especially because the selection process was secret.
Officials involved in the process were limited in number, and they were not allowed to obtain external advice directly.
According to government sources, the names of Chinese places and companies were also examined.
The government also knew that the kanji characters for Reiwa are used for Japanese male names Norikazu and Yoshikazu.
But when considering the name, the government “attached importance to its good meaning,” Furuya said, and so it was selected to for the era set to begin on May 1, when Crown Prince Naruhito ascends to the throne.
Reiwa means “beautiful harmony,” the Foreign Ministry has said.