Time for a very special edition of the random word of the day, because the circumstances behind today's selection are exceptionally rare. If you were unaware, Japan actually uses the Gregorian calendar and an Imperial calendar. At the end of each emperor's reign, a new era begins with a brand new title. Japan's current Emperor, Akihito, ascended to the throne 30 years ago and began the current era, 平成/へいせい/heisei.
Since, Japan uses both calendars, you may assume that the Imperial one is largely ornamental, but that isn't quite true. You are very likely to see it across official documents, government issued or otherwise, and prominently subtitling various events. Since the country was founded hundreds of years ago, there have been many dozens of era changes up until this point. You can read more about that here:
For the sake of this post, I'm only going to mention the previous 4 as they are considered to be within the "Modern Japanese" timeline.
Usually, an emperor will remain on the throne until their death. However, Emperor Akihito(85) decided to abdicate(retire) the throne due to his ever deteriorating health and increasing age. Therefore, from May 1st, his son Naruhito will ascend the throne and the new era, 令和/れいわ/reiwa will begin. As always, lets breakdown these kanji.
Ok, a couple things. The definition of era names aren't as direct as they seem and are incredibly high-context. That said, I'm going to tell you what the government says the definition is, and what my impression of the definition is. According to the council of prestigious scholars, scientist, and presidents of various newspaper organizations that deliberated and selected the era name, 令和 derive from an anthology of ancient poems called 万葉集/まんようしゅう/manyoushuu -literal translation is "collection of 10 thousand leaves".
Classical Japanese translation:
Approximate English translation:
The time is young spring, in a fair ("令") month,
When the air is clear and the wind a gentle ("和") breeze.
Plum flowers blossom a beauty's charming white
And the fragrance of the orchids is their sweet perfume.
Some sources compound the kanji meaning to be a "joyful harmony", but within the context of the source material, "auspicious harmony" seems to be more accurate imo.
*That said, I can't really escape the persistent and very well established contemporary definition of 令 mentioned in my breakdown above. My skepticism of the Japanese ruling party only fuels this as I am aware of their nationalist attitudes and right wing policy making. I have no doubt that they had some sort of influence in the selection of the era name, but I think many Japanese people might turn a blind eye to this. Because of these reasons, I feel the selection of 令和 has a double meaning that comes across a bit more "authoritarian". However, this is just my opinion. In fact, the entire concept of Imperial servitude is outdated and maintains an overarching patriarichal chokehold on the society as a whole, but thats neither here nor there.
What do you guys think? Are you interested in learning what some of the other era name candidates were? Leave your comments down below and don't forget to like and share this post~
Until next time,