Heisei in Perspective: Name Proclamation Opened New Era for Japan in 1989

Politics Society

Tokyo, Dec. 22 (Jiji Press)--The current Japanese era of "Heisei" was heralded by the announcement on Jan. 7, 1989, of its name by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Keizo Obuchi, who solemnly displayed a calligraphy of Heisei written in "kanji" Chinese characters at a televised news conference.

The proclamation, which came hours after the demise of Emperor Hirohito at age 87, was one of the most memorable moments of the Heisei era and had been in the making for more than three months.

On the morning of Sept. 20, 1988, after Emperor Hirohito threw up blood the previous night, Junzo Matoba, head of the Cabinet Councilors' Office on Internal Affairs, was summoned by Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita.

Matoba reported to Takeshita the three candidates of "Heisei," "Shubun" and "Seika" that had been considered behind closed doors for the new era name, or "gengo," to replace Showa. In Japan, both Western and traditional gengo calendar systems are used concurrently.

In the prime minister's office, which was in close contact with the Imperial Household Agency, a key question was raised in December about what to do about the era name change if the Emperor passed away toward the year-end.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press