The meaning of ReiWa [令和] - Japan's new era


On April 1st (No lie), where it marks a new fiscal year in Japan, the name of the new era of the country called Reiwa [令和]. In this article, we will understand the true meaning of Reiwa and why that name was chosen.

Japan always changes the era when it changes emperor, but this time the Emperor has requested abdication of the throne and the rise of Crown Prince Naruhito will begin on May 1, 2019, ushering in the New Age.

Emperor of Japan Akihito was the first to abdicate the throne in the last 200 years, his departure will be exactly on April 30th. As much as the fiscal year starts on the day April first, I thought it was a bad day to make this announcement.

The era that Akihito's name endured is called Heisei [平成] which started on January 8, 1989 and ended on April 30, 2019 totaling over a period of about 30 and 31 years.


In total Japan has had almost 250 eras, which in reality is more than the number of Emperors. These eras are called gengo [元号].

The meaning of reiwa [令和] from japan's new era

The meaning of Reiwa [令和]

According to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the word Reiwa [令和] suggests that culture is born and nurtured when people “care beautifully for one another”.

The word Reiwa [令和] is composed of the ideograms:

  • [令] which means command, order, dictation, ancient laws, good fortune, command and decree;
  • [和] which means harmony, Japanese style, peace, Japan;

In short, we can understand the 2 ideograms as order and command and peace and harmony. The ideograms are selected from ancient Chinese texts, but this time it was taken from a collection of classic Japanese poetry called Manyoshu.

Manyoshu [万葉集] - Collection of 10,000 leaves, an ancient collection of Japanese poetry compiled around 759 during the Nara period. At the end of the article we will leave links to this book.


Shinzo Abe added that the poem, which is more than 1200 years old, talks about the ume [梅] plum blossoms that enter in full bloom signaling the arrival of spring after having survived the intense cold of winter. He added that each person can hope for the future and make their own flowers bloom.

Original Poem: 「初春の月にして、気淑く 

Romanized Poem: Shoshun no reigetsu ni shite kyoku kuyawara gi kyouzen no konawohiraki ranwahaigo no kou wo kaorazu.

The meaning of reiwa [令和] from japan's new era

Experts say the choice taken from a Japanese poetry book created a landmark for Japan's history. This was really the first time that a name has been taken out of ancient Chinese books.

Reiwa also carries feelings like hope, resilience, prosperity, peace and togetherness. There is also a namesake of reiwa [例話] which means illustration and anecdote.

Reiwa remembers peace and harmony?

Unfortunately the name peace that is pronounced Heiwa [平和] cannot be chosen as the name of the new age. There is a rule that the names of the ages cannot have the same initials, so names with H, M, T and S were out of the question.


Still, the name Reiwa [令和] was not chosen for nothing, the goal was to remember the word Heiwa [平和] which means peace. These similarities are not a mere coincidence, the name of the new era may not contain the ideogram [平], but it ends with [和] which means harmony.

The meaning of reiwa [令和] from japan's new era

The former name of the era Heisei [平成] that remembered the homonymous word [平静] which means calm, serenity and tranquility. Where [平] means peace or fullness and [成] means to transform, become, stay, grow, arrive and go.

Notice that if we join the first ideogram [平] from the previous era and the second ideogram [和] from the new era, we will form the word Heiwa [平和] which means peace and harmony. Not to mention the Showa Period.

The names of previous Japanese eras were “Meiji”(Enlightened government) of Emperor Mutsuhito; “Taisho”(Great legitimacy) of Emperor Yoshihito and“Showa”(Peace and harmony) of 1926.

How is the name of the new era Reiwa chosen?

The name of the eras of Japan needs to be composed of two Chinese characters, to be easy to read and write. It is also recommended that you do not use a previously used combination or that is in common use.


Currently, the name must fit the nation's ideals, some academics and bureaucrats draw up a list of suggestions and the cabinet makes the final decision.

The meaning of reiwa [令和] from japan's new era

Nowadays, only about 34% of people use the gengo [元号] or the age count in their daily lives. Japan is globalized and many question the need to use the system of ages and periods.

What did people think of the name Reiwa? Most approved the choice, but some questioned the choice of the ideogram [令] which means order.

What did you think of the name of the new era Reiwa [令和]? If you liked this article don't forget to share it with friends and leave your comments.