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Writer: Nadira Annisa Illustrator: Safira Marini Wikantyasning

If you didn’t know Japan actually has its own system of naming its years or era. It is called 年号 nengō, "year name” or also known as gengō (元号). And this year marks its change after 30 years. Last year marks its last year as the Heisei era, as 2018 was the Heisei 30.

So how does it work? The names of the eras, change based on the current emperor that Japan has. Before Heisei there was Showa, and then there was Taisho and many more. There is no pattern on how long one era is, and the rules have also changed throughout history. However currently the first year of a nengō (元年 gannen) starts immediately upon the emperor's accession and ends on 31 December, and that is when the name will change. Just like how the Heisei Era started on 8 January 1989, which is also the day after the death of the Emperor Hirohito. The name of the eras is also not based on the name of the current emperor. For example, the name Heisei, means “achieving peace”.

Why the change? The current Emperor Akihito has decided to abdicate his throne on the 30th of April. So, mark your calendars! As on that day the name of the era will also change. The government is most likely to announce the name on April 1st before the current crown prince Naruhito becomes the new emperor. The government announces the name beforehand, since there will be a lot of changes to paperwork and also adjusting the information systems. There’s no need for you to remember all the Japanese eras, since Japan also uses the Gregorian calendar.  But it sure will come in handy for us international students to know the Japanese era of when we were born. Because when filling in official papers for hospitals or the city hall, they will need us to write our birthday with the Japanese era.

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