Japan Celebrates Start of the Reiwa Era

Wednesday May 1, 2019 marks the start of a new imperial period in Japan: ‘Reiwa’ (令和), where reigning Emperor Akihito abdicates the Imperial Chrysanthemum Throne, and Crown Prince Naruhito takes over as the 126th Emperor of Japan.

Reiwa translates to ‘beautiful harmony’, and as further explained by Prime Minister Abe:

“In this auspicious month of early spring, the weather is fine and the wind gentle. The plum blossoms open like powder before a mirror while the orchids give off the sweet scent of a sachet.” Moreover, this name “Reiwa” includes the meaning of culture coming into being and flourishing when people bring their hearts and minds together in a beautiful manner.

Statement by Prime Minister Abe
April 1, 2019

Naruhito officially became emperor at the stroke of midnight, as Japanese citizens celebrated the transition and the beginning of the Reiwa era. On Tuesday evening, Naruhito’s father, Akihito, concluded his 30-year reign and the Heisei Era in a ceremony, offering his ‘heartfelt gratitude’ to the people of Japan for their support. He said he hoped his eldest son’s time as head of the world’s oldest monarchy would be one of happiness and peace.

In 2016, Akihito announced he may no longer be physically fit enough to carry out his duties. Akihito’s health problems have included heart bypass surgery in 2012 and a hospitalization for pneumonia in 2011. The last emperor to abdicate was Kokaku in 1817, who stepped down to make way for his son.

Emperor Naruhito, with his wife, Masako, and their daughter, Aiko, in 2002. © Yoshikazu Tsuno/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images