Japanese officials have chosen a name for the period of rule of Japan’s incoming emperor.

Crown Prince Naruhito will become emperor on May 1, one day after Japanese Emperor Akihito leaves the position. This will be only the second time in nearly 100 years that Japan has welcomed a new era.

Although use of the era is not required by Japanese law, it is widely used on government and business papers, calendars and other documents.

The current era, known as “Heisei” under Emperor Akihito, has lasted 30 years. The term is often defined as meaning “peace prevails everywhere.” During that period, Japan has not been involved in a war, but has experienced natural disasters and economic troubles.

The new era is to be called “Reiwa.” It was chosen by a group appointed by the government from names suggested by scholars.

Rules require that the name have two Japanese characters, known as Kanji, which are easily read and written but are unusual or literary in nature. The first character can be defined to mean “order” and the second as “harmony” or “peace.”

After the announcement, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke about the meaning of Reiwa. Abe described it as: “culture is born and nurtured as the people’s hearts are beautifully drawn together.” He expressed his wishes that the new era would be "filled with hope.”

Over more than one thousand years, Japanese era names have come from Chinese classic literature. Abe said the “Manyoshu” was chosen because it was Japan’s oldest collection of poetry written by royal family members and ordinary people.

Emperor Akihito gained what is known as the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989 after the death of Hirohito, Japan’s emperor during World War II.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.


era (n.) - a period of time linked to a quality, event or person

prevail (v.) - to succeed, to defeat an opponent after a long struggle

character (n.) - a symbol, letter or number used in writing or printing

scholar (n.) - a learned person; someone who studies under a teacher

nurture (v.) - to help someone or something grow, develop and succeed

ordinary (adj.) - normal or average; common



Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.

  1. When will Prince Naruhito be crowned emperor?
  2. What is the name of the current era?
  3. What does it mean?
  4. What is the name of the new era?
  5. What does it mean?


Exercise 3


Please give your opinion on the following statement and give your reasons behind it.

  • Having an emperor or a king is good for tradition of a country



Exercise 4 


Have a discussion on following questions.

  1. What do you think of Japan´s tradition of emperors?
  2. How is Shinzo Abe describing this new era?
  3. Why was Manyoshu chosen?
  4. What is the name of Japanese throne?


This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA Learning English.