For the first time in history, the Emperor Akihito will abdicate his throne on April 30, and will subsequently coronate his heir the next day. The current Japanese royal family is the oldest batch of monarchs in the entire world, with its blood line stretching back all the way to circa 600BC. This rearrangement brings about a new change for Japan, and will have profound effects on its culture and society.

Although the aftermath of World War II stripped the imperial family of all political authority, they still remain as cardinal figureheads of Japanese culture. They may have lost their divine status throughout society, but they still hold sway over many artistic and humanitarian decisions. They represent the best of the Japanese lifestyle and serve as role models to the rest of the population. Their long-established position comes with a lot of responsibility, which explains the tremendous amount of reverence and veneration they are treated with.

The last crowning ceremony took place following the death of Emperor Showa back in 1989, when the current emperor Akihito took up the mantle and named his era “平成”, or Heisei. This is directly translated as “established peace” – a blessing for his 30 year reign. Likewise, the enthronement of the current crown prince, Hironomiya, will bring about the new “令和”, or Reiwa. While this phrase is open to various conflicting interpretations, the general perspective behind it is to “bring about global peace indefinitely”.

The Heisei period was full of marvelous technological innovations, such as the emergence of the Internet, as well as the rise in popularity of various new lifestyles and cultures. Many define it as the era during which humanity started to diverge its primary focus from survival to the enrichment of life.  It may have been full of strife and pain for many, with both natural and financial debacles, but many among the general population agree that the last 30 years were relatively good and peaceful. We hope that this new era will bring about good times and peace for us all.

Article by Ryo Matsuki