Translation of 新しい元号「令和」について (Regarding the Name of the New Imperial Era, “Reiwa”)

This is an amateur (practice) translation of an official communication from the office of the Japanese Prime Minister commenting upon the origin of the name of the new imperial era, “Reiwa.” The source text is given in 新しい元号「令和」について.

Regarding the Name of the New Imperial Era, “Reiwa”
Heisei Era, Thirty-First Year, Fourth Month, First Day

Informal dialogue from the office of the Prime Minister

Today, a cabinet order was finalized, deciding upon the name of the new imperial era.

The name of the new imperial era is “Reiwa.”

これは、万葉集にある「初春(しょしゅん)の令月(れいげつ)にして 気(き)淑(よ)く風(かぜ)和(やわら)ぎ 梅(うめ)は鏡前(きょうぜん)の粉(こ)を披(ひら)き 蘭(らん)は珮後(はいご)の香(こう)を薫(かおら)す」との文言から引用したものであります。そして、この「令和」には、人々が美しく心を寄せ合う中で、文化が生まれ育つ、という意味が込められております。
This name is taken from a quote from the Man’yōshū, “In the auspicious months of early spring, the air is pleasant and the wind is gentle, plum blossoms unfold their beauty before a mirror, and the fragrance of orchids lingers in their wake.” The name “Reiwa” therefore refers to the birth and blossoming of culture from people’s beautiful hearts drawing closer to each other.

While the Man’yōshū is Japan’s oldest collection of poetry, having been compiled over one thousand and two hundred years ago, the poems contained within are not limited to those written by the emperor, imperial family, or nobles, but also include compositions from a broad range of people, including ordinary soldiers and farmers. It is a piece of national literature which represents the richness of the culture of the Japanese people and our long history of traditions.

A history that reaches back eternally, a graceful and refined culture, and bountiful nature which changes with each of the four seasons: we will resolutely pass down these elements of the national character of Japan to the next era. Much like the splendid blooming of the plum blossoms, which herald the coming of spring after the harsh chill of winter, every single Japanese person is capable of blossoming the flowers of their own lives while embracing their hopes and ambitions for the next day. The choice of the name “Reiwa” also encompasses an earnest desire for the existence of such a Japan. In the midst of peaceful days, where we nourish the growth of our culture and cherish the beauty of the nature that surrounds us, we will embrace the gratitude within our hearts and, together with all the people of the Japanese nation, together open up a new era brimming with hopes and ambitions. Upon the occasion of the finalization of the name of the new imperial era, we once again renew these resolutions for our future.

On the first day of May, the Imperial Prince will ascend to the throne, and thereafter the name of the new imperial era will go into effect. We humbly ask for the understanding and cooperation of all the people of Japan. The government will carry out preparations of the utmost thoroughness to ensure the success of the great historic inheritance of the imperial throne, which has not happened in nearly two hundred years,1 such that the people of the nation may all celebrate together.


The name of the imperial era has been woven into the long history of our nation, which spans nearly one thousand and four hundred years, alongside the storied traditions of the imperial family and a deep wish for the safety of the Japanese nation and the prosperity of the Japanese people. It has become part of the Japanese soul and gives the Japanese people a sense of spiritual unity. From the bottom of our hearts, we hope that this name of the new imperial era, too, will be adopted by the citizens of our expansive nation and take root deep within the daily life of the Japanese people.

1 Although the previous imperial succession in Japan occurred in the 20th century, when Emperor Akihito ascended the throne in January 1989, following the death of his father Emperor Hirohito, this passage refers to the fact that the previous imperial succession that occurred without any disruption (i.e. as a result of orderly abdication, rather than through untimely death) was nearly two hundred years ago, in 1817, when Emperor Ninko succeeded Emperor Kōkaku.

May 12th, 2023 | Posted in Japanese

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