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Updating software, shaping history: New imperial era name looms large in Japan

27 Comments
By Malcolm Foster

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27 Comments
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I think the new era should be named 延自律 .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The 64-year Showa era, which lasted until 1989, has generally come to be identified with Japan's recovery and rising global prominence in the decades after World War Two.

Showa 64 only lasted until January 7th, that was the date that Hirohito died, and in all the years I have been here I have only met one person that was born in Showa 64, everyone after that date was born in Hesei 1 or Hesei ganen!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It has to be Chinese characters, for historical and continuity reasons.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Crazy idea: Name it after the Emperor.

Or, would that be too easy for everybody to remember?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

How about 2019?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Wasteful bureaucratic nightmare. Money in the bank for software companies. Cultural significance: positive. Productivity gain overall for Japan Inc: negative.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Surely the whole point about a time designation is so that people can communicate with you. What's the point about being the only one using Showa, Heisei, etc., when the rest of the planet isn't? Someone yesterday told me that things were going to change in "Heisei 32." But there isn't going to be a Heisei 32. Let's face it, it worked for Roman Emperors maybe, 2,000 years ago, but it's not very practical these days.

About time to scrap it.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Complicating simple things. The government office uses 2010,2019 on all my paperwork. For my wife out comes charts and conversion tables, mobile phone....then after all the time spent on filling out the appropriate box, they put 2019 in another box. What a waist of time keeping track of times no one actually uses day to day.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The invisible hands behind the scenes are struggling to find ways to keep the imperials relevant to the average Japanese.

All human methods of recording time being somewhat arbitrary, I have no major objection to the gengo system per se, as long as emperors stay healthy and live long. That was not the case in medieval times, which added extra work to the study of Japan's history.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@garypen

Actually, in Japan the Emperor is named after the era not the other way around—Emperor Meiji, Emperor Taisho, etc. It is only foreigners who call the Emperor by his given name.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is only foreigners who call the Emperor by his given name.

In everyday speech that is correct, but for instance the 御璽 (gyoji), the enormous gold hanko used to affix the imperial seal to rescripts and other important documents, carries each emperor's personal name, such as 裕仁 (Hirohito), etc.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ Bamboozler

Wasteful bureaucratic nightmare.

.

@ NCIS Reruns

The invisible hands behind the scenes are struggling to find ways to keep the imperials relevant to the average Japanese.

.

Right on! Monarchy is an anachronism.

.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I bet there will be tons of zangyo and karoshi related to all this software and document updating...lots and lots of unnecessary labor as usual...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

two Chinese characters

Japanese characters as well called Kanji.  Do you call about English characters as Latin characters or something?

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Who cares about the name. It's what the people do to (hopefully) make the next period better than the last.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"It's a word that captures the national mood of a period, similar to the way "the '60s" evokes particular feelings or images,"

No, not at all, since it is not even revealed to the public until the last minute. How on earth does it capture the national mood of a period and of the public when they have no say and no idea what it will be? If anything, it captures the nationalistic moods of a few people in power, not including the would-be Emperor who will carry the name. The images of the '60s that are evoked are RETROSPECT, like when you wax nostalgic over past times in general. Now, if you want to argue that the chosen name may dictate the mood or politics to come, that's something, and even that it looks towards the future, yes. But the name only invokes the past when that era is gone, and people are only beginning to get all weepy about "Heisei" and buying up goods now that the sun has set on it. Ridiculous comparison.

"...or how historians refer to Britain's "Victorian" or "Edwardian" eras, tying the politics and culture of a period to a monarch."

Again, as a retrospective, yes. But they're not going to announce the name tomorrow and the same day people will say, "Yes, that matches the politics and culture of that long gone era!" In 100 years, if we survive, then maybe, looking back. Of course, it'll have to be a name that depicts nationalism, greed, and spitting on the people to reflect the politics correctly, but hey.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

.Do you call about English characters as Latin characters or something?

Latin or Roman script, yes.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Japanese characters as well called Kanji. Do you call about English characters as Latin characters or something?

Must be why all the Japanese made J-E dictionaries define kanji as "Chinese characters." This must come as a surprise to you since kan/han literally means Chinese. Or that literally all Japanese people distinguish between their own native syllabic scripts and "Chinese characters."

6 ( +6 / -0 )

With great power comes great responsibility...should be the right name for him.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I have a feeling that more people know what the new name is going to be, IE; printing companies ( for the imperial house), seal maker, and a few others spring to mind, as for keeping or scraping the idea of naming a era, I am in favour of keeping it, its sticking with tradition and something like this is part of Japans culture and history, its like scraping the changing of the guard in London, which has been undertaken for hundreds of years, which is preformed every day.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

One thing is for sure, if you are a betting person, it won’t be 安久 as in the photo above.

Ankyu sounds too much like ‘Thank you’ or ‘Hankyu’...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have no major objection to the gengo system per se, as long as emperors stay healthy and live long. That was not the case in medieval times, which added extra work to the study of Japan's history.

The one emperor one era name system is actually relatively new, it only started with Meiji. Before that the name would change periodically, often in response to natural disasters, famines, etc. I guess to ward off the bad luck from the old era.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I found bizarre that the article refers to the term "Western calendar". Why not call it by its real name which is Gregorian calendar? The term Western usually refers to what is living in or originating from the West, in particular Europe or the United States. However since the Gregorian calendar is today used in many countries not understood to be Western, including in Asia, I don't think that's a correct terminology.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

tina watanabe: "Japanese characters as well called Kanji. Do you call about English characters as Latin characters or something?"

Hate to break it to you, tina, but Kanji are literally "Chinese characters". Kan = Chinese. Ouch. But hey, didn't you try to say once that it was Japan who introduced Kanji to China?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Hey Smith, Tina always gives it her all. I enjoy her honest posts.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I can see the point of keeping it for an historical and cultural reason so use it for those and religious usages but for functional everyday usage like government and business then the simpler and already used western/Gregorian dating system would save wasted time and money as well as making everyone’s lives simpler.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I would not be surprised if this naming scheme is scrapped... it perpetuates a lot of inconvenience and can bring with it bad memories, best let those fade away into the past with numerical oblivion.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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