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  • Writer's pictureAkiko Murakami

"REIWA", a new era of Japan has started!


On May 1st 2019, a historical event happened in Japan, a shift of the Imperial era from

Heisei (平成 1989 -2019 April) to

Reiwa(令和 2019 May-).

Until the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the names of eras changed fairly frequently in order to signal a fresh start after some disaster or tumultuous event. Beginning with Meiji, however, it has become the custom for one imperial reign to be given one era name.

“Reiwa” is generally translated as “Beautiful Harmony .

The announcement of the new era was 1 month before the actual shift. I remember feeling funny surprise, and "Reiwa" did not sound so nice in my ears at the beginning. However, by the time of actual shift, "Reiwa" had become very familiar, since many has talked over the meanings and the reasonings. In a sense, we were prepared to welcome the time.

How big is the impact on the Japanese people? It is totally depend on the individuals. For some, it means nothing special, for some it means a great deal. I know many Japanese who are thrilled to welcome this new era with new(126th) Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako.

One thing that I am quite certain is, sooner or later, it is going to give a great impact on the collective conscious of the Japanese.

Despite the unique challenges or even critical time the world is facing ahead (with artificial intelligence, more social inequality, climate change, food and water crisis, etc. ) I believe this era will bring more peace, harmony, beauty and balance in the world.

Japanese are easily influenced by the same media, same national trends and events etc. both positive ones and negative ones.

The sense of identity as Japanese maybe not be so strong, however, images and feelings are almost telepathically shared among us.

Era is very symbolic as we feel the change of time and generations collectively.

As a matter of fact, each name of the era evokes certain feelings, emotions and memories associated with it.


Edo(江戸) period was ....times with Samurai, Bushido, Shogun, Ukiyoe, geisha, etc.  It lasted about 260 years in peace without external threats with closed policy. How it ended? It is well described in the Hollywood movie "LAST SAMURAI". (it is not a documentary film, it is not a documentary film, but I think it will give you good images of the dramatic time between end of Edo period and Meiji restoration.)

"Meiji (明治)" era (1868--1912)

Great time of shift (modernization, Westernization, militarization)

"Imperial Japan" started with the leadership by Meiji Emperor.

War against China, Russia

2018 was the 150 the anniversary year since the Meiji Restoration.

The New York Public Library DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

"Taisho (大正)" era (1912-1926) as short as 15 years

Taisho democracy

"Showa(昭和)" era (1926-1989) The longest era lasted 64 years

World War II, end of World War II

Post-war reconstruction under

General Headquarters, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP) =occupied by foreign powers

Rapid economic growth

Cold War between USA and USSR

Tokyo Olympic (1964)

Bubble Economy of Japan

That was a time, many mothers were still housewives, while fathers were the main bread winners of the family with quite stable lifetime employment and seniority system.

I was born in "Showa" era, so I have nostalgic feelings towards this timing.

"Heisei (平成)” era: (1989—April, 2019)

End of Cold War

The collapse of the Bubble economy (1990-)

←The Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake (1995)

The Great East (Tohoku) Earthquake and Tsunami (2011) and nuclear accident in Fukushima.


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