Japan’s new imperial era Reiwa begins today, May 1, 2019. This transition is unusual because the previous emperor did not pass away, he abdicated, so everything could be planned out and carefully unfolded over the last 6 months or so. As a result of this celebration, Japan is currently on their longest holiday on record, basically 10 days off of work.
‘令和’ consists of the two kanji characters ‘令‘ and ‘和‘. Each individual kanji has meaning individually, in combination, they mean something a little bit different together. Here, the 令 means ‘auspicious’ or ‘noble’ as in ‘令月’ meaning ‘auspicious month’ and 令嬢 meaning ‘a noble daughter’, which is also used when one refers to someone’s daughter with full respect. Generally, however, 令 indicates ‘order’, as in ‘命令’ meaning ‘order’ and 司令 meaning ‘command’, and therefore some people find the tone of 令和 somewhat cold. It is the first time that ‘令’ is used in an era name.
The latter kanji ‘和’ generally means ‘peace’, as in ‘平和’ meaning ‘peace’ and 調和 meaning ‘harmony’. This character also means ‘Japanese’, as in ‘和食’ (washoku) meaning ‘Japanese food’. Due to its hopeful and familiar tone, the character 和 has been used 20 times in total in the names of Japan’s era, including ‘令和’.
One of the possible ways to read these kanji in english: Beautiful Harmony.
Reiwa Era celebration colors:
The Japan Fashion Color Association (JAFCA) is an official group that contributes to high profile imperial festivities like court weddings and on the occasion of the new Era have declared the following colors to be the official celebration colors.
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