A new era: Japan welcomes its 126th emperor and celebrates Reiwa 

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

A new era: Japan welcomes its 126th emperor and celebrates Reiwa 

DUBAI: Japan will welcome its 126th emperor in a fascinating, history-filled ceremony on Tuesday, but who is Naruhito and what will his “era” signify?

On April 1 this year, the Japanese public intently waited for the government to announce the name of the nation’s new imperial era following the abdication of Emperor Akihito, who led Japan for 30 years.

Historically, the implementation of the imperial era name (or gengo) dates back to Japan’s modernization days of the Meiji Era in the late 19th century. Simply put, each emperor represented a new era.

This unique system remains relevant in politics and several aspects of daily life, as it is used in official documents, local newspapers and the Japanese calendar.

But the name is of deeper significance than official use. “It’s supposed to convey a certain meaning and motto of what should come during the reign of the emperor,” Dr. Griseldis Kirsch, a senior lecturer on contemporary Japanese culture at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, told Arab News.

Reiwa, officially translated as beautiful harmony, has been selected as the name for the era of the incoming imperial couple Naruhito and Masako.

A two-character term that is derived from an ancient anthology of Japanese poems known as “Manyoshu,” Reiwa has drawn some controversy since the term is “not entirely clear,” said Kirsch.

Linguistically, the characters’ meanings have changed over time, and there was a lack of agreement on a proper English translation.

Although the term represents peace amid the current troubled times, Reiwa has a slightly passive tone compared to the former Heisei (achieving peace) era.

“It’s about Japan and its inner harmony… that’s pretty clear in the second character ‘wa’ because it can mean ‘Japanese’ or ‘Japan’,” said Kirsch.

The relatively young incoming royals have been described time and again as a “modern couple.”

Masako — a Harvard-educated former diplomat who speaks five languages — gave up a promising career to join the Imperial Court.

Then-Crown Prince Naruhito — an Oxford-educated environmentalist who is dedicated to water conservation — reportedly pursued his wife-to-be for years before she finally married him in 1993, after rejecting his proposals over fears her career would be jeopardized.

The imperial couple have been famously candid about their difficulties in starting a family, with Princess Masako suffering a miscarriage in 1999 while Naruhito slammed press’s harassment of his then-pregnant wife as “truly deplorable.”

The couple gave birth to a girl, Princess Aiko, in 2001.


Actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donate $200,000 amid US protests

Updated 01 June 2020

Actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donate $200,000 amid US protests

DUBAI: Protests were held across the US this week demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the other black Americans who have been victims of police brutality. Many celebrities joined in on these protests in major cities such as Los Angeles or New York, including French-Algerian actress Sofia Boutella, pop star Ariana Grande, model Emily Ratajkowski and rapper J. Cole. 

Meanwhile, other stars have taken to their social media platforms to demand justice and draw attention to various organizations which help low-income protesters pay bail or donation pages that directly benefit the family members of the victims. 

Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively  shared a joint statement on Instagram on Sunday night, revealing that they donated $200,000 to the NAACP Legal Defence Fund, a civil and human rights legal organization that provides legal assistance to low-income African Americans.

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The couple, who share two children together, wrote “We've never had to worry about preparing our kids for different rules of law or what might happen if we're pulled over in the car. We don’t know what it’s like to experience that life day in and day out. We can’t imagine feeling that kind of fear and anger. We’re ashamed that in the past we’ve allowed ourselves to be uninformed about how deeply rooted systemic racism is."

The couple’s statement continued, “We want to educate ourselves about other people’s experiences and talk to our kids about everything, all of it… especially our own complicity.” 

Lively and Reynolds aren’t the only celebrities to donate a hefty sum amid the George Floyd protests sweeping the US. Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen pledged to donate $200,000 towards the bail-outs of protesters across the nation.