Reiwa Is An Underwhelming Choice For the New Era (But It’s A Fantastic Baby Name)

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In case you missed it, the upcoming era that will begin after the abdication of Emperor Akihito is officially “Reiwa (令和).” It has a meaning of “order and harmony,” with an official translation of “beautiful harmony.”

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga unveils ‘Reiwa’ as the new era name at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Japan, April 1, 2019. Franck Robichon/Pool via Reuters TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Apparently, Reiwa was chosen out of 6 possible candidates which have yet to be revealed. Personally, I would have loved the opportunity to participate in a national referendum (it would have been an awesome privilege, albeit costly!)

(UPDATE: The 6 choices were revealed on ZIP on April 3 and in an article on Japan Today on the same day. IMO, Reiwa was the best choice out of the 6… if there was a referendum, it definitely would have gotten my vote!)

So, what’s so special about the Japanese calendar?

For me, and others, it’s a quick reference guide to historical events. The Japanese calendar (gengo) system is very practical once you get used to it. Outdated and obsolete to many, but it works.

Choosing the new era while the current emperor is alive is a historical first, and though it’s a time to be celebrated, I couldn’t help but feel so underwhelmed at the big reveal.

I mean, really.

Reiwa?

Rei-wa?

I’d expect something with 永 (everlasting) or 功 (merit) or 真 (truth). Even 安 (content).

This is the first time the 令 character has been used, but the 20th time for 和. It hasn’t even been that long since Showa (昭和) ended!

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令 is used in the present day with words like 命令 (meirei, command) and 法令 (hourei, law and ordinances). But apparently the section of the Man’youshu (a collection of poetry from waaay back in the day) where it comes from “depicts the auspicious month (“reigetsu”) in early spring when the winds have become temperate (“fu-wa”).”

Weird flex, but ok, I guess.

Japanese twitter is already having fun with the R18 “you must be 18 or over” jokes (using the first letter is a common way to abbreviate the era names e.g. 2018 is Heisei 31 or H31).

But, it just sounds weird, almost like a tongue twister when you say it with a hard R— as I imagine it will be said on the tongues of people unfamiliar with Japanese pronunciation. (If it helps, try to say it as “day wah” with a soft “d” and without stretching out the “wah.”)

On the other hand…

“Reiwa” when read with alternate readings, makes a fantastic name for boys: Norikazu. Invert the kanji (和令) and you also get Kazunori.

Reiwa as is also works as a girl’s name, or as a combination using 令 (Reina, Reika, Reiko, Mirei).

Similarly, the first character can be used for Noriko (令子) or Norika (令香, which can also be read as Haruka!).

I even saw on the evening news, a baby girl named 令和, but her parents adopted the reading Rena … which had me like

Disgusted New Girl GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

How they even got “na” as a reading for 和… I literally cannot even.

With that said…

As a kindergarten teacher, I expect to see a lot of Norikazu’s, Noriko’s, and Reiwa’s in future classes!

TL;DR-

Unpopular opinion: Reiwa Is An Underwhelming Choice For the New Era (But It’s A Fantastic Baby Name).

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

(4/11 UPDATE: Called it!)

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Teni
Tokyo-based beautyholic and content creator. Mom to a monster and a furbaby. Driven by intense wanderlust and powered by limited edition snacks and drinks from Japan.