Reiwa (Japanese: , pronounced [?e:?a] or [?e?:?a]) is the current era of Japan's official calendar. It began on 1 May 2019, the day on which Emperor Akihito's elder son, Naruhito, ascended the throne as the 126th Emperor of Japan. The day before, Emperor Akihito abdicated the Chrysanthemum Throne, marking the end of the Heisei era. The year 2019 corresponds with Heisei 31 from 1 January through 30 April, and with Reiwa 1 (?, Reiwa gannen, 'the first year of Reiwa') from 1 May. Reiwa is interpreted as "beautiful harmony".
The Japanese government on 1 April 2019 announced the name during a live televised press conference, as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga traditionally revealed the kanji calligraphy on a board. The Prime Minister Shinz? Abe said that Reiwa represents "a culture being born and nurtured by people coming together beautifully".
A shortlist of names for the new era was drawn up by a nine-member expert panel comprising seven men and two women with the cabinet selecting the final name from the shortlist. The nine experts were:
The day after the announcement, the government revealed that the other candidate names under consideration had been Eik? (), Ky?ka (), K?shi or K?ji (), Banna or Banwa (), and Banpo or Banh? (), three of which were sourced from two Japanese works, the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki. Official pronunciations and meanings of these names were not released, although the reading of Eik? was leaked; the other readings are speculative. Predicted guess names included An'ei () and Heiwa ().
The kanji characters for Reiwa are derived from the Man'y?sh?, an eighth-century (Nara period) anthology of waka poetry. The kotobagaki (headnote) attached to a group of 32 poems (815-846) in Volume 5 of the collection, composed on the occasion of a poetic gathering to view the plum blossoms, reads as follows:
It was in new spring, in a fair (rei) month,
When the air was clear and the wind a gentle (wa) breeze.
Plum flowers blossomed a beauty's charming white
And the fragrance of the orchids was their sweet perfume.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry provided an English-language interpretation of Reiwa as "beautiful harmony", to dispel reports that "Rei" (?) here is translated as "command" or "order" - which are the significantly more common meanings of the character, especially so in both modern Japanese and Chinese. The Foreign Ministry also noted that "beautiful harmony" is rather an explanation than an official translation or a legally binding interpretation.
Prior to and naturally irrespective of the era announcement, within the context of the Chinese essay in the Man'y?sh? from which the excerpt is cited, the expression (which characters constitute the word reigetsu in modern Japanese) has generally been academically translated or interpreted as "wonderful" or "good (Japanese: yoi) month" in published scholarly works, such as by Alexander Vovin in English as wonderful month in his 2011 commentary and translation of Book 5, or by Susumu Nakanishi in Japanese as yoi tsuki () in his commentary and translation into modern Japanese that was published in 1978. In addition, following the announcement of Reiwa in 2019, Susumu Nakanishi advocated for understanding the character rei (?) of the era name through the help of the Japanese word uruwashii (, fair (of sight, weather), beautiful, fine (also of mood) etc.), stressing that in the traditional dictionaries (such as Erya or the Kangxi Dictionary), the word ? is explained with the word ?. Nakanishi criticized the understanding of the rei (?) in Reiwa as Japanese utsukushii (, generally meaning "beautiful"), which was propagated by then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pointing out that neither the etymology nor the exact sense are appropriate.
Robert Campbell, director-general of National Institute of Japanese Literature in Tokyo, provided an official televised interpretation to NHK, regarding the characters based on the poem,[clarification needed] noting that "Rei" is an auspicious wave of energy of the plum blossoms carried by the wind, and "Wa", the general character of peace and tranquility.
Accordingly, the name marks the 248th era name designated in Japanese history. While the "wa" character ? has been used in 19 previous era names, the "rei" character ? has never appeared before. The character appeared in a proposed era name in 1864--Reitoku ()--that the ruling Tokugawa shogunate rejected, as it could be interpreted as the emperor commanding (rei) the Tokugawa.
On the other hand, according to Masaaki Tatsumi (?), professor of Japanese literature, and Masaharu Mizukami (?), professor of Chinese philosophy, interviewed by the Asahi Shimbun shortly after the announcement was made, the phrase has an earlier source in ancient Chinese literature dating back to the second century AD, on which the Man'y?sh? usage is allegedly based:
Yú shì zhòng ch?n lìng yuè, shí hé qì q?ng; yuán xí yù mào, b?i c?o z? róng.
Then comes young spring, in a fine month,
When the wind is mild and the air clear.
Plains and swamps are overgrown with verdure
And the hundred grasses become rank and thick.
According to the Japan Mint, all coins with the new era name will be released by October 2019. It takes three months to make preparations such as creating molds in order to input text or pictures. The Mint will prioritize creating 100- and 500-yen coins due to their high mintage and circulation, with an anticipated release by the end of July 2019.[needs update]
Anticipating the coming of the new era, the Unicode Consortium reserved a code point (㋿ SQUARE ERA NAME REIWA) in September 2018 for a new glyph which will combine half-width versions of Reiwa kanji, ? and ?, into a single character; similar code points exist for earlier era names, including Sh?wa (㍼ SQUARE ERA NAME SYOUWA) and Heisei (㍻ SQUARE ERA NAME HEISEI) periods. The resulting new version of Unicode, 12.1.0, was released on 7 May 2019.
On 19 November 2019, Shinzo Abe became the longest-serving prime minister of Japan and surpassed the previous 2,883-day record of Katsura Tar?. Abe also beat Eisaku Sat?'s 2,798 consecutive days record on August 23, 2020.
In early 2020, Japan began to suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic as several countries reported a significant increase in cases by March 2020. Japan and other countries donated masks, medical equipment, and money to China.
In June 2020, Fugaku was declared the most powerful supercomputer in the world with a performance of 415.53 PFLOPS. Fugaku also ranked first place in computational methods performance for industrial use, artificial intelligence applications, and big data analytics. It was co-developed by the RIKEN research institute and Fujitsu.