As the aging Emperor Akihito steps down and the new Emperor, Naruhito gets crowned on the 1st of May, it will mark the beginning of a new era. Every time a new emperor takes charge, it is said to be a new era. And the new era, a really, really BIG event in Japan, was unveiled yesterday – it will be known as ‘Reiwa.”
When the current Emperor Akihito took charge in 1989, the Japanese named it as the Heisei Era and prior to that when Emperor Hirohito ruled, it was the Showa period.
Eras are about more than who is the emperor of the day. They are also, for example, the basis of the Japanese calendar system: 2018 was Heisei 30, coming three decades after the era began. So the Japanese era moves along with the Gregorian calendar.
The era sets the tone for the upcoming decades, and remains significant to most Japanese in their daily life. It appears on coins, newspapers, driving licences and official paperwork.
It is akin to what we had during our times of the Kings and Emperors; they too has their own coins, flags and emblem. The Japanese have continued with this process of the royalty, maybe a way of keeping history and age-old traditions alive, irrespective of their relevance.