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Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30 and his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend the throne on May 1, with the Imperial era name changing from Heisei to Reiwa. Such an era name system — in which only one name is assigned for the whole period of an emperor’s reign — was introduced by the Hongwu emperor of China’s Ming Dynasty when he assumed the throne in 1368. Although era names were once widely used in East Asia, Japan is now the only country to retain the system.

What kind of an era was Heisei in Japan? As the 30-year period is approaching its end, let me discuss two major points. The first is the issue of the emperor system.

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