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Japan reveals new 'era' name ahead of emperor's abdication

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Japan on Monday announced its new imperial era, which will begin next month after Emperor Akihito abdicates, will be known as "Reiwa", a word that includes the character for "harmony".

[TOKYO] Japan on Monday announced its new imperial era, which will begin next month after Emperor Akihito abdicates, will be known as "Reiwa", a word that includes the character for "harmony".

The name consists of two characters: "Rei", which can have meanings related to "order" but also "auspicious" and "Wa", usually translated as "peace" or "harmony".

The government is expected to explain the official meaning as well as the English spelling for the name shortly.

"A short while ago, the government decided at a cabinet meeting on the new era name and how to pronounce it," Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference, holding up the new name painted in traditional calligraphy on white paper.

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Although the Gregorian calendar is widely used in Japan, the imperial calendar is also in common use and the new era announcement has been highly anticipated.

Emperor Akihito will step down at the end of April and his son Crown Prince Naruhito will assume the throne on May 1, when the new era will officially begin.

The era that defined the reign of Akihito was known as "Heisei" (or "peace prevails everywhere").

AFP