Japan names era for incoming emperor Naruhito

The selection, "Reiwa," likely dates to poetry from 1,200 years ago.

TOKYO -- Japan's cabinet has selected the nation's 248th era name, part of a tradition dating back to the 7th century: "Reiwa."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the name on Monday.

Reiwa is believed to be derived from Manyoshu, the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry at more than 1,200 years old.

The era name, aka "gengo," will apply to the reign of soon-to-be-emperor Naruhito, who will ascend to the throne after his father, Emperor Akihito, steps down April 30 in the nation's first abdication in 200 years.

The imperial system, which some people still use to observe calendars and mark birthdays, began in China more than 2,000 years ago. While other Asian nations have abandoned naming eras, Japan continues.

"We are very proud of our history, culture and traditions," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. "We wanted the name to reflect the future of Japan. We felt this was the most appropriate name. Reiwa was composed to support the spiritual unity of Japanese. It is meant to be accepted and deep-rooted among our people."

The Cabinet chose the name from a list of proposals made by experts in in Japanese and Chinese literature and history. The government declined to name the selectors.

Japan "looks at efforts to enhance traidition," Shigeji Ogura, an associate professor at the National Museum of Japanese History, told ABC News, "so 'gengo' is symbolic of Japanese culture, in a sense."

Reiwa will be printed on calendars and coins and official documents beginning May 1.

On the street, initial feedback appeared positive. Several women described the era name as "kawaii," or "cute," while another called it "suteki," or "nice."

A 71-year-old businessman who identified himself only as Mr. Kuroki said he wasn't impressed.

"Overall," he told ABC News, "it is pretty blasé. I like the second character, wa [peace], though."

Purin Shogun, a 30-year-old comedian doing an impersonation of Kim Jong Un, said, "To me, it feels like world peace."

Miki and Keiko, high school students, said they didn't really understand what Reiwa meant.

"And," Keiko added, "we don't like it."

Tokyoite Munehiro, 33, clad in all red, said he liked the new name.

"A lot of people, particularly younger folks," he added, "are complaining about the name. It may take awhile, but they'll eventually get used to it."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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