In Japan, 2019 will be remembered as a year that ended twice. In addition to the Western calendar year, which ends on Dec. 31, April 30 marked the final day of year 31 of the Heisei Era, thereby bringing an end to the reign of Emperor Akihito, who had abdicated in favor of Crown Prince Naruhito. From May, Japan recalibrated its gengō (dynastic calendar) to the first year of the Reiwa Era.

In the leadup to the new emperor's enthronement ceremony, the government followed previous custom on Oct. 18, announcing it would pardon some 550,000 petty criminals and restore some of their civil rights, such as eligibility for national licenses. This action fell short of a general amnesty or reduction in sentencing for convicts serving prison sentences.

According to Kyodo News, traffic violators accounted for 65.2 percent of those receiving pardons, and those causing death or injury in traffic accidents were 17.4 percent. Those convicted of assault or injury and theft, respectively, were 3.3 percent and 2.6 percent. Other beneficiaries of the pardon included some 430 violators of the election law.