National

Tokyo welcomes Japan's new Reiwa Era in festive mood with countdowns and marriages

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Midnight countdowns, marriage registrations and celebratory events: People welcomed the dawning of the new imperial era, Reiwa, at various locations in Tokyo on Wednesday with a festive mood.

In the middle of the unprecedented 10-day Golden Week holiday, a lot of municipal offices were busy accepting marriage registrations — many couples seemed to feel that the beginning of the new era was the perfect opportunity. Some offices even offered little extras, such as setting up special photo booths for the occasion.

Officials at Sumida Ward, Tokyo, said they received a number of inquiries on how marriages could be registered on the first day of the Reiwa Era after the government disclosed the new era name last month.

Takuto Masu and his wife, Aki, hold up the characters for Reiwa at the Sumida Ward office where they submitted their marriage registration on the first day of the era on Wednesday.
Takuto Masu and his wife, Aki, hold up the characters for Reiwa at the Sumida Ward office where they submitted their marriage registration on the first day of the era on Wednesday. | KAZUAKI NAGATA

“We were thinking of when we wanted to submit the registration. And then the new era name was announced, so we thought this would be good timing,” said Yasuhiro Yamaguchi, a 32-year-old man who was at the Sumida Ward office.

“Now that we are a family, I need to brace up and become a better person,” said his newlywed wife, Nao.

Another couple also cited the era change as part of the reason they went to register their marriage. “We hope to build a happy family full of smiles,” said Takuto Masu, 31, who came with his wife, Aki.

In addition to a photo booth the ward also prepared a news conference setting for the couples, where children who have been appointed as PR ambassadors for Sumida Ward acted as reporters and asked questions — such as what the newlyweds like about each other and what kind of family they would like to build.

The ward said it saw about 280 marriage registrations on Wednesday compared to about the 70 to 80 it usually accepted on other busy days.

While couples were registering marriages in a heartwarming mood, the exit from the Heisei Era in the business district of Shibuya, Tokyo, the night before had been more chaotic.

Police officers control the pedestrian flow at the scramble crossing in front of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station shortly after the Reiwa Era began on Wednesday.
Police officers control the pedestrian flow at the scramble crossing in front of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station shortly after the Reiwa Era began on Wednesday. | KAZUAKI NAGATA

A huge crowd amassed near the famous scramble crossing in front of Shibuya Station, apparently wanting to experience the last minutes of Heisei and the dawning of Reiwa together despite the rainy weather.

To maintain order, dozens of police officers were deployed to the site. Officers urged visitors not to linger about after 11 p.m. on Tuesday, shouting to tell those gathered that there was no countdown event.

As midnight neared, police attempted to stop people from entering the crossing. While the scene did not seem to get out of control, some of the crowd still quickly occupied part of the space moments before the transition to Reiwa, with people cheering wildly and celebrating as the big moment arrived.

Scramble crossing is a famous spot for people to gather on celebratory occasions, such as New Year’s Eve and Halloween, but is also notorious for such gatherings sometimes getting out of control.

Even after midnight, police were kept busy controlling pedestrian flow around the crossing.

While the festive atmosphere was palpable in the bustling area, some people voiced their enduring affection for the Heisei Era and melancholy at its passing.

Two men wearing T-shirts printed with the Reiwa kanji character pose for a photo before the dawn of the Reiwa Era at the scramble crossing in front of Tokyo
Two men wearing T-shirts printed with the Reiwa kanji character pose for a photo before the dawn of the Reiwa Era at the scramble crossing in front of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station on Tuesday. | KAZUAKI NAGATA

“I am sad that Heisei is now over,” said Ayaka Nakanishi, a Tokyo resident who came to Shibuya with two of her friends.

“We were all born in the first year of Heisei, so on the last day of Heisei, we wanted to get together,” she said.

Nakanishi said Shibuya has always been a place to hang out since they were college students, which is why they wanted to spend their last Heisei night there.

The Tokyo Skytree also held events Wednesday during the day featuring live calligraphy, a shishimai lion dance (which is traditionally believed to drive away bad spirits) and Japanese classic acrobatics.

Hundreds of visitors enjoyed the performance while also receiving free sake.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5