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End of an era: Emperor's abdication to reset Japan calendar

27 Comments
By Miwa Suzuki

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© 2018 AFP

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it was the iron fist of the calendar lobby's hold on the Abe government (??!!??) that forced the Emperor to delay his departure otherwise he'd be long since retired by now

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Isn't it about time we moved on from this anachronism?

2 ( +9 / -7 )

Or just use a calendar that the rest

of the world uses?

4 ( +9 / -5 )

Or just use a calendar that the rest of the world uses?

Well, it is 1438 AH just now, and some people who adhere to this dating system would get obstreperous about any other.

Rather, a more serious problem is that in Japan, 元年, or Year 1, starts on the day the calendar starts - basically no 'year zero'. This way of counting can skew age calculations, not to mention pregnancy trimesters (months are counted similarly).

My experience was in 1988, to get a new drivers licence in the first week in January. In the third week, just after Showa Tenno (Hirohito) died, a cop came to my door and some how got out that he wanted to take away my new driver's licence because it was wrong. At the time it was VERY confusing, but it was sorted out when I was driven in a small cop car to the licensing place taken straight to the counter at the head of the queue (being a gaijin in the good old days had its perks) and someone explained:

all the new 昭和64年 licences had to be remade as 平成元年 (ie. the last year of the previous era was replaced by the first year of the new era).

It must have been a big job, but many officers in Japan thrive on anxiety in crisis management.

Perhaps they are trying to avoid that situation this time around.

However, I am sure I got my new licence in the fastest time in the history of Japan, about 9 minutes, with no road safety lecture, and chauffeur-driven by the police there and back home to boot.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

The new name is also unlikely to start with the first letter of any of the last four eras: Heisei, Showa, Taisho and Meiji. And because each era name is considered "sacred", any name put forward but rejected in the past cannot be proposed again.

Just call it the "Abe" era and have done with it.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

"It is easier to imagine what the time was like if you have eras," said Kunio Kowaguchi, president of major calendar maker Todan.

For instance, we remember it was early Heisei that the bubble burst," he said, referring to the collapse of Japan's speculation-driven economy.

Is it? Is it really, Mr calendar maker?

8 ( +13 / -5 )

totally agree PerformingMonkey. Who does this guy thinking he's fooling? People can remember things in the decades that they occured. Saying the bubble burst in the Heisei period gives a less accurate account than saying in the late 80s.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

"It is easier to imagine what the time was like if you have eras," said Kunio Kowaguchi, president of major calendar maker Todan.

A: When did Roger Bannister run the 4 minute mile?

B: That'd have been... during Queen Elizabeth II reign right?

A: Yes. When was the Mini first released?

B: Erm...during Queen Elizabeth II time wasn't it?

A: I guess. Do you remember when JFK was assassinated?

B: Yes, clearly. It was in Queen Elizabeth II era.

A: You have a good memory! When did Concorde first fly?

B: Queen Elizabeth II era?

A: Yep. Oh Nelson Mandela...

B: ...was imprisoned, released, and died all in the Queen Elizabeth II era!!

A: I'm so glad we have eras. It makes it so easy to remember what the time was like, and when stuff happened.

20 ( +24 / -4 )

unlikely to start with the first letter of any of the last four eras: Heisei, Showa, Taisho and Meiji.

These are abbreviated to H S T and M, in very small typefaces, on thousands of forms, certificates, licences and documents in Japan, so it is definite that it will have to be another letter.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

HollisBrown - brilliant post!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well, it is 1438 AH just now, and some people who adhere to this dating system would get obstreperous about any other.

Actually, it’s AH 1439 now.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This ridiculous system might make sense if Japan were the only country on the planet. But then it still wouldn't make any sense when you want to put a date several years in the future. The current Emperor will abdicate, so how do you express a year 10 years from now, when it will be someone else or 100 years from now when there is no possibility of any Emperor still being alive.

Japan really needs to shuck off its past and move into the 21st century. There are a lot of neighbouring countries who think so too. In the international community, Japan needs a date system that is used by the other countries. It's also going to have to revamp its totally outmoded and incomprehensible address system.

Japan needs to update itself!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Japan needs to update itself!

Ironically, Japan is at the forefront of research in the field of metrology, particularly in updating the definition of the kilogram. Yet they insist on this unwieldly and archaic calendar!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I was born in Heisei 1, so the last year of Heisei here is also the last year of my 20s. It does feel like the end of an era.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

mr calendar maker, how many years ago is the Kan'ei era?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It is easier to imagine what the time was like if you have eras," said Kunio Kowaguchi, president of major calendar maker Todan.

"For instance, we remember it was early Heisei that the bubble burst," he said, referring to the collapse of Japan's speculation-driven economy.

What nonsense.

Reports initially suggested the name would be announced in 2018 but there have been rumors of a delay. That may indicate the scale of the challenge, with experts bound by stringent guidelines requiring the name to have two characters, be easy to read and write, and not use common names.

Scale of a challenge? Seriously....how hard is it to come up with an easy 2 character name? I know, how about forming an " expert panel or two to discuss this for a couple of years ...courtesy of the taxpayer?

Oh, wait......

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The upcoming end of the Heisei era was even reportedly a factor in the government's decision to implement death sentences this year against 13 members of the Aum cult behind a 1995 sarin attack. Government officials apparently wanted to a draw a line under the cult's attacks before the Heisei era ends. All 13 executions were carried out in July.

So, if the Emperor were ti never stepped down, those 13 members would never be executed?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Imagine all that waste of paper that has to be thrown away because the new era is not printed on it. Ugh.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm off to get my driver's licence renewed next month. I'm getting gold this time, so I wonder what will be written on it. Heisei 35?

As for remembering things, "50s", "60s", "70s", "80s", "90s" have way more meaning than "Showa".

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I'm off to get my driver's licence renewed next month. I'm getting gold this time, so I wonder what will be written on it. Heisei 35?

My gold license expires in H33. If H33 never happens, when do I renew it?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If the clocks go forward at the same moment the era is due to change, will that mean we'll be stuck in Heisei forever?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Crown Prince Naruhito will be 59 by the time he puts the sparkly hat on. It’s not inconceivable that we could be going through this rigmarole again within a decade

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just call it the "Abe" era and have done with it.

Some people (Japanese, and who have no problem with Imperial eras) around me were speculating that Abe will attempt to get the new era to have a name that begins with A; perhaps the very-frequently-used character 安. Fortunately, there was an Ansei 安政 era just a few years before Meiji, so surely they should want to avoid confusion! But I'm getting nervous.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oops, the quote marking on Fatboysosa's line "Just call it the "Abe" era and have done with it." didn't go through. That's the idea that I'm against!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It keeps the calendar and office supply companies in business. Remember, Japan uses 90% more paper than the next 90 countries combined.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

ThonTaddeo,

"Just call it the "Abe" era and have done with it." 

Actually, that gives me an idea. Wouldn't it be a good idea if Abe were the next Emperor? With his pride and pomp, he wouldn't be able to refuse it and as Emperor he wouldn't be able to do anything more than wave at people and hand out medals.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Interesting article. Maybe it will be named Junzo?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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