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Japanese era name

Japanese era name (年号, nengō, lit. year name) is a common calendar scheme used in Japan to count years. For example, 2004 is Heisei 16 years.

Like similar systems in East Asia, the era name system was originally derived from Chinese Imperial practice, although the Japanese system is independent from the Chinese or Korean calendar systems. Unlike other similar systems, the Japanese era name is still in use. Government offices usually require era names and years for official papers.

Sometimes an era name is expressed with the first letter of the romanized name. For example, S55 means Showa 55 years. With 64 years, Showa is the longest era.

Table of contents
1 Modern Era Names
2 Historic Era Names
3 Conversion table for eras to Gregorian calendar years:
4 External links

Modern Era Names

With the modernization of Japan after the ascension of the Meiji Emperor and now under current Japanese law since 1979, it has become practice to change era names only upon occasion of imperial succession. Also, the deceased emperor will thereafter be referred to as his corresponding era name posthumously. Under current law, only males can assume the throne.

In the Japanese language, the current emperor on the throne is almost always referred to as Tennō Heika (天皇陛下, His Majesty the Emperor) or rarely and less formally as Kinjō Tennō (今上天皇, current emperor) and even more rarely, if ever by his name Akihito. To call the current emperor by the current era name Heisei even in English would be a faux pas as it is and will be his posthumous name. This causes great confusion not only in other languages, but also for Japanese as he is known throughout the world only as Akihito. Also, his father the 124th emperor is called Hirohito throughout the world, but is always called the Showa Emperor in Japan.

In modern practice, the first year of a reign (元年 gannen) starts immediately upon the emperor's ascension to the throne, but always ends on December 31st. Subsequent years follow the Western calendar. Consequently, 1989 is known as both "Showa 64" and "Heisei 1", although technically Showa 64 ended on January 7th with Hirohito's death.

Historic Era Names

Historically however, prior to the Meiji Restoration, era names were changed on many different occasions such as celebration, major political incidents, natural disasters, and so on, but the emperors posthumous name never took the name of an era. Incidentally, on modern official papers, those who were born prior to the Meiji era did not write the era name in which they born, but wrote Edo period (though now no one born over 130 years ago in that time period is still alive now).

Conversion table for eras to Gregorian calendar years:

See also: calendar, Japanese calendar, era name

External links

Japanese resources: