Mon, Sep 03, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The royal reset

With Japan’s emperor planning to abdicate next year, the country’s calendar makers eagerly await the new emperor’s era name


And because each era name is considered “sacred”, any name put forward but rejected in the past cannot be proposed again.

One of the few people familiar with the challenge is Junzo Matoba, a former bureaucrat who helped look for new names during the last years of emperor Hirohito’s Showa era, in the late 1980s.

“Some people thought it was irreverent to think about the next era” while the emperor was still alive, he said. “I had to work secretly.”

He consulted experts on Asian history and literature while trying to maintain a low profile.

“I found myself caught up in such a difficult task — I was sitting under the Sword of Damocles,” the 83-year-old said.

By 1988, the search was narrowed to three contenders, and when Hirohito passed away on January 7, 1989, a panel of experts, politicians and ministers quickly approved Heisei, meaning “becoming peaceful both inside and outside the country”.

Japan’s government is believed to have a shortlist of names, but has been mum on potential choices or an announcement date, despite the growing interest.

“Japanese people love to ‘reset’ things,” said Matoba.

“A new era, a new mindset.”

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