Five academic experts were commissioned to produce potential names for Japan’s new era following the abdication of former Emperor Akihito, with “Tensho” a leading choice before the submission of “Reiwa,” sources have said.
Although the government has not disclosed details of the selection process, the sources said Saturday that two experts on Japanese classics were included among the five to reflect Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s request that names be derived from them rather than Chinese literature, as was customary in the past.
One of the two Japanese literature experts was Susumu Nakanishi, former president and professor of Japanese classics at Osaka Women’s University. Nakanishi proposed “Reiwa,” derived from Japan’s oldest known poetry anthology “Manyoshu.”
He is one of the three commissioned experts whose names have already been revealed by government sources. The two others are Shigehiko Uno, honorary professor of Chinese philosophy at Chuo University, and Tadahisa Ishikawa, former president and professor of Chinese classics at Nishogakusha University.
Nakanishi initially proposed “Tensho,” also derived from “Manyoshu,” and Abe liked this choice, according to the sources. The two characters in the name roughly mean “sky” and “flying.”
But it failed to make the shortlist because it was an example of manyōgana, an early writing system implementing Chinese characters to represent the Japanese language, and because it did not meet a condition requiring the words themselves to have good meanings, the sources said.
Nakanishi proposed three more choices at the end of March after the government requested further ideas, after which “Reiwa” was included.
Six shortlisted candidates were proposed by Nakanishi, Uno and Ishikawa.
Of the five commissioned experts, the remaining two were On Ikeda, honorary professor of Asian studies at the University of Tokyo, and a Japanese classics expert who is around 70 years old, the sources said, adding that their proposals were not shortlisted.