Emperor Akihito of Japan abdicated on 30 April 2019, being the first Japanese emperor to do so since 1817. This marked the end of the Heisei era and the inception of the Reiwa era, and will precipitate numerous festivities leading up to the accession of his son and successor, Emperor Naruhito.The Enthronement Ceremony will likely happen on 22 October 2019. Akihito’s younger son, Prince Akishino, is his brother’s crown prince and heir presumptive.
Since the Meiji Restoration in 1867, a new Japanese Era starts the day after the old Emperor dies. However, in Emperor Akihito’s case, manufacturers of calendars, forms, and other paper products need to know the new Era’s name in advance to produce wares in a timely manner.
While the Era names for the Shōwa and Heisei eras were kept state secrets until the deaths of the previous Emperors, that was not possible in this case, because an abdication is unprecedented since the 1885 Meiji Constitution was adopted. In order to prevent divisive debate on the subject, delaying the announcement as late as is practically possible, either the old Emperor’s birthday or his Jubilee celebrations had been suggested.
Until the Era name became known, computers and software manufacturers needed to test their systems before the transition in order to ensure that the new era will be handled correctly by their software. Some systems provide test mechanisms to simulate a new era ahead of time.
The new Era name, Reiwa (令和), was revealed on 1 April 2019 by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga during a televised press conference.
Preparations for the imperial transition, 2017–2019
The committee met for the first time in January 2018, and the following month announced that a plan called a “basic policy statement,” was released on April 3. Official farewell celebrations began with a 30th Jubilee ceremony on February 12, 2019, a delay which would avoid any implication of a celebration of the death of the Emperor Shōwa on January 7.
Golden Week, 2019
The government consolidated the Golden Week into a special ten day holiday block lasting from April 27 to May 6. Even without the imperial transition, April 29 and May 3–6 were scheduled as national holidays in 2019, following the weekend of April 27–28. To mark the imperial transition, the government determined that abdication and enthronement would both be national holidays. Japanese law states that a regular work day sandwiched between two national holidays becomes a public holiday.
The Enthronement Ceremony for Emperor Naruhito is scheduled to take place on 22 October 2019, marking the end of the transition period. It is to be an extra holiday.