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Will Reiwa lean on history or carry us forward?

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So, it’s Reiwa. Or should it be Leiwa? In Japanese, the sound of the first letter is certainly much closer to the latter, but non-Japanese media seem to be opting for the former. However the Latin alphabetic spelling goes, Japan is set to enter a new era on 1 May when the Heisei emperor abdicates and his son inherits the throne.

What kind of era Reiwa will become is entirely up to us and the generation that follows. Hopefully, it will be a grown-up era in which we do not pick uncalled-for fights with our neighbours and are able to contribute to the mutual support system that the globalised world is supposed to be. We should ensure that Reiwa does not go down in history as the turning point when the country grew overtly nationalistic and self-centered once again. The signs are there, and the concern is real.

Historical context

Japan’s modern-day, non-Gregorian calendar begins with the Meiji period (1868–1912). Then come Taisho (1912–26), Showa (1926–89) and Heisei (1989–2019).

The Meiji period heralded the end of 300 years of seclusion that defined the Edo period, and Japan took off in a dash to become an imperial power. There were........

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