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Japanese era name

Japanese era name (年号, nengou, lit. year name) is a common calendar scheme used in Japan to count years. For example, 2003 is Heisei 15 years.

Like similar systems in East Asia, the era name system was originally derived from Chinese Imperial practice, although the Japanese system is independent from the Chinese or Korean calendar systems. Unlike other similar systems, the Japanese era name is still in use. Government offices usually require era names and years for offical papers.

Sometimes an era name is expressed with the first letter of romanized name. For example, S55 means Showa 55 years. Showa is the longest era as of 2003.

Table of contents

Modern Era Names

With the modernization of Japan after the ascension of the Meiji Emperor and now under current Japanese law since 1979, it has become practice to change era names only upon occassion of imperial succession. Also, the deceased emperor will thereafter be referred to as his corresponding era name posthumously. Under current law, only males can become assume the throne.

In the Japanese language, the current emperor on the throne is almost always referred to as Ten'no Heika or rarely and less formally as Kin'jyou Ten'no and even more rarely, if ever by his name Akihito. To call the current emperor by the current era name Heisei even in English would be a faux pas as it is will be his posthumous name. This causes great confusion not only in other languages, but also for Japanese as he is known throughout the world only as Akihito. Also, his father the 124th emperor is called Hirohito throughout the world, but is always called the Showa Emperor in Japan.

Historic Era Names

Historically however, prior to the Meiji Restoration, era names were changed on many different occasions such as celebration, major political incidents, natural disasters, and so on, but the emperors posthumous name never took the name of an era. Incidently, on modern official papers, those who were born prior to the Meiji era did not write the era name in which they born, but wrote Edo period (though now no one born over 130 years ago in that time period is still alive now).

Conversion table for eras to Gregorian calendar years:

  • 645 大化 Taika[?]
  • 650 白雉 Hakuchi
  • 686 朱鳥 Shuchou
  • 701 大宝 Taihou
  • 704 慶雲 Keiun
  • 708 和銅 Wadou[?]
  • 715 霊亀 Reiki
  • 717 養老 Yourou
  • 724 神亀 Jinki
  • 729 天平 Tenpyou
  • 749 天平感宝 Tenpyou-kanpou
  • 749 天平勝宝 Tenpyou-shouhou
  • 757 天平宝字 Tenpyou-houji
  • 765 天平神護 Tenpyou-jingo
  • 767 神護景雲 Jingo-keiun
  • 770 宝亀 Houki
  • 781 天応 Ten'ou
  • 782 延暦 Enryaku
  • 806 大同 Daidou
  • 810 弘仁 Kounin
  • 824 天長 Tenchou
  • 834 承和 Shouwa
  • 848 嘉祥 Kajou
  • 851 仁寿 Ninju
  • 854 斉衡 Saikou
  • 857 天安 Tennan
  • 859 貞観 Jougan
  • 877 元慶 Genkei
  • 885 仁和 Ninna
  • 889 寛平 Kanpyou
  • 898 昌泰 Shoutai
  • 901 延喜 Engi
  • 923 延長 Enchou
  • 931 承平 Shouhei
  • 938 天慶 Tengyou
  • 947 天暦 Tenryaku
  • 957 天徳 Tentoku
  • 961 応和 Ouwa

External Links Japanese resources:

See also: calendar, Japanese calendar, era name

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