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Japanese Era Names
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The Emperor of Japan

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Era Names

From ancient times in Asia, it was the practice to count years according to the reign of an emperor. This custom was adopted in Japan with the Taika designation in 645. From that time until the 19th century, era names (gengo) were changed not only on the accession of a new emperor following the death of an emperor, but could also be changed during the reign of an emperor (for such reasons as warding off natural disasters, or on the succession of a new shogun to the Bakufu government). However, as of the Meiji Era, which started in 1868, it was determined that the era begins on the day an emperor ascends the throne and continues until his death. For example, "Showa" began in 1926 when Emperor Hirohito ascended, and lasted for 62 years and two weeks, until his death in 1989. 1989 is regarded as both Year "Showa 64" (the first 7 days) and Year "Heisei 1" (the rest of the year). The year 2002 is "Heisei 14".

Era names had been selected by the emperors, but today it is the cabinet that decides era names. "Heisei" was the first selected under this new system. After the death of an emperor, the emperor is generally referred to by the name of the era rather than by his own name. Emperor Hirohito is known to the Japanese as Emperor Showa.

Meiji 1868/9/8 - 1912/7/30
Taisho 1912/7/30 - 1926/12/25
Showa 1926/12/25 - 1989/1/7
Heisei 1989/1/7 - present

Although the Western calendar is widely known and used today, official documents are still dated with the era name. Click here to learn what year you were born in the Japanese era.

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