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Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:33 AM

What's in a name? Japan puzzles over 'Reiwa'

What's in a name? Japan puzzles over 'Reiwa', the term for new imperial era
Malcolm Foster

But Reiwa’s meaning has generated confusion and controversy.

The first character, “rei,” is often used to mean “command” or “order,” imparting an authoritarian nuance that offends some. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government prefer “good” or “beautiful”, a less widely known sense.

The second character, “wa,” is defined as “peace” or “harmony”, and together they mean “beautiful harmony,” Japan’s consulate in New York said in a bid to dispel confusion.

“It does not mean ‘order and harmony’ as has been reported in the press,” the consulate said in a statement.

The name is chosen by the cabinet, rather than the emperor, from a short list proposed by scholars.

While many Japanese were positive about the new name, to some, particularly young people, it sounded harsh.

“Do they mean ‘Give in to orders?’ They probably want another militarist era,” said one Twitter user.

There is definitely an authoritarian or militarist implication.

The entire article is worth a read for those interested:


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Reply What's in a name? Japan puzzles over 'Reiwa' (Original post)
soryang Apr 2019 OP
soryang Apr 2019 #1
soryang Apr 2019 #2

Response to soryang (Original post)

Mon Apr 29, 2019, 12:21 PM

1. 令和

How obscure is the use of 令 in 令和?


The explanations trying to explain the use of "rei" seem labored and contradictory. The scholar in the OP article said he wouldn't have chosen this character.

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Response to soryang (Original post)

Mon Apr 29, 2019, 04:20 PM

2. How the name came to be selected will be a secret for 30 years

In winding up the discussions at the meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga proposed leaving the final decision to Abe.

“Based on the opinions from the experts and Cabinet members, I want Reiwa, which is derived from ‘Manyoshu,’ a Japanese literature classic, to be the new era name,” Abe said.

The government is set to compile detailed minutes from the series of meetings that will include the five candidates other than Reiwa and identify the speakers, but the records will be kept secret for 30 years in principal. It does not plan to reveal the proposers of Reiwa and other candidates even when the minutes are released.


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