Thursday, October 07, 2010

Japanese Era

It is a common tradition in most east Asian countries to follow an era system for telling the years. Japan is no exception. The Gregorian calendar is in common use alongwith the traditional era system.

The Japanese era name is called "Nengo" or "Gengo" and owes its origin to the Chinese custom.
However the Japanese Nengo system is based on the reign of its emperors. The first year of any era begins immediately upon the emperor's ascension of the throne and the year ends on 31st December of the corresponding calendar year. The subsequent years follow the Gregorian calendar until the end of the era.The era continues as long as the emperor continues to reign. Usually the reigning emperor is not referred to with his given name and is called " Tenno Heika" which translates to " His Majesty , The Emperor". After the death of the emperor, he is referred to by the name of the era which he reigned. For instance Emperor Hirohito who reigned from 26th December 1926 till his death on 7th January, 1989 is referred to as Emperor Showa and the period of his reign is called the "Showa Era". The current Era corresponds to the reign of Emperor Akihito and the era is called "Heisei". "Heisei" means Acheiving Peace. Emperor Akihito ascended the throne on 8th January 1989 and the Heisei era began at midnight of 8th January 1989. In this case the first 7 days of 1989 are considered as part of Showa era and the rest of the year is part of the Heisei era. The current year ie 2010 is the 22nd year of the Heisei era and is mentioned as H22 when writing the date in Japanese and in most legal and government documents. For instance 1st October 2010 would be written as H22-10-01 in Japan.

As per the current Nengo system which was adopted in 1868, there have been 4 eras, Meiji, Taisho, Showa and Heisei. The Showa era which lasted for 64 years has been the longest era as per the Nengo system.

Most legal and government documents require that the dates must be mentioned with the era names and years. Moreover it is in common use in day to day life and most application forms etc require the date to be mentioned using the Japanese era. As such it would be beneficial for most foreigners to know their year of birth and the current year as per the Nengo system. 

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