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The closely watched announcement by the government that Reiwa will be the name for the new Imperial era beginning May 1 puts the preparation for the abdication of Emperor Akihito and the enthronement of his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, in the final stage. It should also serve as an occasion for people to ponder about the significance of the Imperial era name system in today’s Japan.

The name Reiwa is reportedly derived from the Manyoshu, the oldest existing compilation of Japanese poetry, written in the 7th to the 8th century, unlike the previous Imperial era names, including the outgoing Heisei, which had their origins in Chinese classic literature. In a news conference, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the name is meant to signify “culture being born and nurtured by people coming together beautifully.”

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