Monday, April 1, 2019

(1813) A break for historical reasons -and the winner is...

Since the emperor announced he will be abdicating, one of the big discussions in Japan was what will be the name of the new era, the "gengo (元号) that will mark the years of his son, crown prince Naruhito or Hiro-no-miya (徳仁/浩宮) and Naruhito himself when his reign ends since in Japan no one refers to the previous emperors with their names. Hirohito, the father of the present emperor is "Showa (昭和) emperor", his grandfather, Yoshihito (嘉仁) is "Taisho (大正) emperor" and his great-grandfather, Matsuhito (睦仁), is "Meiji (明治) emperor". And the present emperor, will not be referred to as "Akihito (明仁)" but as "Heisei (平成) emperor".

After months of deliberations and speculation, today at 11:41 and with a very uncharacteristic for the Japanese ten-minute delay, the Chief Cabinet Secretary and government spokesman Yoshihide Suga announced that the name will be "Reiwa"(令和) -for those not very well acquainted with Japan, gengo are important because they are used simultaneously with the western calendar scheme and especially in official documents they're the ones basically used. 

Therefore, from May 1 when the emperor abdicates, it will be the end of the Heisei (平成) Era and the beginning of the Reiwa Era with 2019 being at the same time Heisei 31 and Reiwa 1. The name comes from the 8th century poetry collection "Man'yoshu" (万葉集), the oldest poetry collection in Japan and the choice has been interpreted as an indication of the importance the government of prime minister Shinzo Abe gives to traditional Japanese values (everyone is free to take the above statement anyway they like -and they will be right, whatever that is.) 

According to the official translation, as given by the public network NHK the poem, which is "初春の令月にして気淑く風和らぎ梅は鏡前の粉を披き蘭は珮後の香を薫らす" can be rendered as " "On a moon-lit night in early spring, the air is fresh and the wind is calm, the plum flowers are blooming like a beautiful woman applying white powder in front of the mirror, and the fragrance of the flowers are like that of robes scented with incense." And no, I won't even attempt to translate it myself!

(For a bigger version of this picture both in color and black and white, check my "Japan Arekore" set on Flickr)

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