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2019.05.25 Overseas Media Give Japan’s New Era Name Mixed Interpretations.
In Japan, May will mark the beginning of the new era with Emperor Akihito's historic abdication. On April 1st, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the highly anticipated name by holding up a board with the characters handwritten on it. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has addressed the nation to explain its meaning.
Each Japanese emperor's reign is given a name, or "gengo", that is then used alongside the Western calendar to mark the years. The new name of an era will be "Reiwa". Japan is the only country in the world that uses the era name system, or gengo, which has its roots in China, although the Gregorian calendar is also in common use. Each era name aims to set the tone for the upcoming decades, and remains significant to most Japanese in their daily life.

There have been confusions as to the exact translation of “Reiwa.” BBC reported that it is made up of the two characters Rei and Wa. Rei can mean ‘commands' or ‘order‘, as well as ‘auspicious‘ or ‘good’. Wa often means ‘harmony‘, and is also used in the Japanese word for ‘peace‘ - ‘hei-wa‘.” Another UK media the Guardian explained that it can be read to mean “fortunate” or “auspicious”, and “peace” or “harmony”. Across the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal translated it as “auspicious and peace.” ABC News in Australia was still not certain what “Reiwa” should be translated.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, perhaps not in favor of foreign media translating “Rei” as “order,” released an official translation as “Beautiful Harmony.” However, according to Mainichi Shimbun, some staff at the Ministry are arguing that “Reiwa” could also be interpreted as “peace through an order.” Even Japanese people are having a hard time deciphering the true meaning of it.

The confusion is quite natural since not many gengo have an enormous significance. They are mainly selected for its sounds and impressions from the looks of the two characters, or kanji, and from some historical aspects. The true meaning of the era will not be revealed until it is over when people would associate it with the events that happened during the era. In this regards, “Reiwa” is something Japanese people are able to add significance to it from now on. It will be interesting to compare the current mixture of the interpretation with what people would summarize at the beginning of yet another era after “Reiwa.”