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Politics

Japan to unveil new era name on April 1

Announcement will come a month before next emperor's enthronement

Keizo Obuchi, then chief cabinet secretary, announcing the Heisei era in 1989, when Emperor Akihito ascended to the throne.

TOKYO -- Japan's new era name will be announced on April 1, one month before the current crown prince ascends to the throne, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided.

The current emperor, Akihito, will be the first to abdicate since Japan established a constitutional government. There is also no precedent for an era name to be made public before the new emperor's ascension.

The gengo, or era name used for the length of an emperor's reign, will be unveiled soon after receiving cabinet approval the same day. It will be chosen in accordance with the Era Name Act and follow the same procedure used during the last changeover from Showa to Heisei in 1989.

The entire cabinet will make a decision on April 1 after listening to several proposals from a panel of experts, followed by the opinions of the speaker and vice speaker of the upper and lower houses of the Diet. The name will then be revealed by the chief cabinet secretary. Emperor Akihito is expected to sign a cabinet order the same day to approve the change for May 1.

The government decided to reveal the name a month before Crown Prince Naruhito's enthronement to reduce confusion and ease the transition for citizens, despite some sentiment from within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for it to be revealed on the day of ascension, as is traditional.

The new era name must hold a meaning in line with citizen's ideals, be two characters long and be easy to read and write. It is typically drawn from Chinese classical texts. The government has already commissioned experts to prepare a list of proposals.

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