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Japanese new gengo(元号) : Reiwa (令和)Why Reiwa??

The Japanese government announced a new era name: 'Reiwa'.


I was kind of speechless for a minute in disappointment.

' Why did they choose this Chinese character 'rei ( 令)....? '

That's the question that I have in my mind.  


The prime minister said, "We chose this name with hope that our culture will be nurtured while all of us are teaming up in a beautifully harmonious way. "  Wise people on TV made comments like " This is a very good name. Rei(令) has an auspicious and fortunate meaning and wa(和) means harmony."

According to the government, the new name was taken from Manyoshu, the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry.

It comes from a passage that can be translated as: "On a moon-lit night in early spring, the air is fresh and the wind is calm, the plum flowers are blooming like a beautiful woman applying white powder in front of the mirror, and the fragrance of the flowers are like that of robes scented with incense." (by NHK world)


Yes. This poem is beautiful and may be wrapped in an auspicious atmosphere, but that's not the impression I have received. 


The character 'rei(令)' has some meanings. They say that it has a fortunate meaning. However this meaning is not familiar at the present time. It may have been used as an auspicious word long time ago, but today this 'rei' doesn't have such a happy mood at all. If you look up 'rei' in a dictionary, you'll find...

an order ; a command; an ordinance; a law;  etc

What a variety of dreadfully happy meanings. So this combined chinese character '令和reiwa' is saying like " You have to follow orders if you want to live a harmonious life". That's the first impression I got from this word. Kinda scary, isn't it?


The sound of  'rei' is also giving a bad impression I guess. In Japanese 冷 and 零 have the same sound as 令’rei'.

冷 means ’cold'

零 means 'zero'

So ’reiwa' sounds like 'cold harmony' or ' zero harmony'. What a nice name.


I hope I will get used to this name and come to like it eventually.

And I truly hope in this new era 

every Japanese person will achieve their aspirations just like a plum flower flourishes after a severe winter. ( The prime minister's remark :by NHK world)

Oh, I mean 'not every Japanese person' but 'everyone'.