Dawn of a New Era

It's been in all the papers, so it's probably incumbent on people like me, who occupy tiny little barely-read corners of the cyberworld, to say a few words about the new age. Because, you know, it's always interesting when someone who isn't Japanese by birth says anything at all about Japan. I guess.

I don't have a lot to say about it, except that when I saw and heard the annoucement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary, I thought the name didn't seem particularly new or fresh. It seemed like something from a long time ago. Which it is--it comes from the Manyoshu, most of which I was forced to read and attempt to understand during my undergraduate studies in the old country.

Thing is, now that I type Reiwa in Roman letters, it actually looks kind of cool.

There was a story about a man in Hyogo whose name was written with the same two characters (of course, with a different reading more in keeping with masculine naming conventions.) Nobody would name their child Reiwa, after all.

Then again, they might. There are urban legends of shortsighted parents naming their children Pokemon and Pooh these days, and Reiwa certainly has all of those beat for beauty, class and elegance, hands down.

The American composer Frank Zappa named his son Dweezil, but was forced to temporarily insert some other name for official purposes because the hospital refused to print 'Dweezil' on the birth certificate. (Incidentally, when his daughter was born he named her Moon Unit, apparently without any such trouble. Go figure.)

Likewise, certain combinations of Chinese characters are prohibited by the Family Registry here in Japan, and these (so I have heard) preclude the use of the name of any era as a given name. (I have, however, met women named Yayoi, written exactly the same as the era, so perhaps this rule only applies either to the current period or to those fairly recent in history.)

It will probably seem a lot fresher and more present once they start to mint coins with the new era name. Then people will start referring to the Heisei jidai rather than saying simply 'Heisei'. Which will make those of us who lived here through most of the Heisei feel really old.

Which we are.