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Japan Enters New Epoch

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15.04.2019

On 1 April, Chief Cabinet Secretary (i.e. head of the executive body under the Prime Minister), Yoshihide Suga, showed journalists two kanji characters, written in calligraphy, that represent the name of the country’s new epoch. They have been adopted from ancient Japanese poetry, and in Latin alphabet the characters depict the word Reiwa.

The name of the new epoch, which will dawn for the nation on 1 May of this year, was selected by a special committee, approved by both chambers of the National Diet of Japan (its parliament) and revealed to the next emperor, Crown Prince Naruhito. The latter will ascend to the throne (on 1 May too), replacing his father Akihito, who reigned during the Heisei epoch since January 1989. According to ancient tradition, on passing they will both be referred to by the names of their epochs in Japan’s annals of history.

Several interpretations of the meaning behind the characters Reiwa appeared shortly afterwards. The most accurate of these is considered to be the one proposed by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe “Our nation’s culture is born and nourished by people’s hearts being drawn beautifully together”.

For the author of this article the kanji characters themselves, representing the name of Japan’s new epoch, represent nothing more but a beautiful label for a truly new image of the country, which has been taking shape during the entire post-war period.

There was a need for a symbolic depiction of internal radical changes that have taken place in Japan and of its return (as well as Germany’s) to the forefront of the “Global Chess Game” as one of its main participants. Using the position it has reached, the nation will be able to handle new internal and external challenges, under the guidance of the symbols (extremely important for Japan) representing the reign of the new emperor.

And although the reasons for Emperor Akihito’s abdication from the throne (the second in the history of the nation) seem quite convincing (the ruler is 85 years old, he has had long-term health problems and has undergone complex surgical procedures), the presence of another motive – new challenges should be faced under the leadership (even if symbolic) of a new emperor – is readily apparent.

Currently, Japan’s nominal GDP is in third place globally, and its........

© New Eastern Outlook