Reiwa: Japan’s Poetic New Imperial Era of ‘Splendid Peace’


Japan marks the end of an era with Tuesday's (Apr 30) abdication of Emperor Akihito, and the outgoing monarch leaves behind a much-changed country.


Crown Prince Naruhito will inherit a Japan vastly different from that of the start of his father's reign, when the country was in the grip of an economic bubble and on the verge of a tech revolution.


Reiwa, written 令和will be the new era, which will officially commence on May 1, 2019 when the emperor abdicates the throne and transitions the role to his son. In the coming days, much will be said and written about the meaning behind the new name. 

We experienced a devastating natural disaster, which shook us all to the core. There was a change in our general mentality of how precious life is. Each moment must be lived and enjoyed and instead of just working to make money, many people changed to find work that brings us happiness. Instead of procrastinating, many went to actively chase their dreams. We care more now about what we eat and where our food comes from. Slow living has become a priority. A deep appreciation of the change of seasons and enjoying all the beauty around us. 

The term Reiwa was derived from the Manyoshu, the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry dating back to around the mid-700s. The poem describes the scent of plum-blossoms carried by an early Spring breeze and appear in Japanese as: 初春の令月にして、気淑く風和らぎ、梅は鏡前の粉を披、蘭は珮後の香を薫らす

Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum offers the following translation from a 1971 publication:

When with the first month comes the spring,

Thus breaking sprays of plum-blossom,

We’ll taste pleasure to the full

Bows & Arrows