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Japan to announce new era name on April 1: gov't source

This combined photo shows Japanese Emperor Akihito, left, and Crown Prince Naruhito. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government plans to announce the name of the nation's new era on April 1 ahead of the ascension of the new emperor on May 1, a government source said early Tuesday.

The government is likely to make the announcement after adopting the new "gengo," or era name, at a Cabinet meeting the same day, a month before Crown Prince Naruhito becomes the new emperor in place of incumbent Emperor Akihito, the source said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose government has proceeded with preparations for the era name change, is expected to unveil the plan during a news conference on Friday, according to the source.

Under the plan, the government on April 1 will hear opinions from experts in various fields, as well as the chiefs and deputies of both houses of parliament, about multiple candidate names before Cabinet approval and proclamation by the emperor.

A gengo is used for the length of an emperor's reign. While many Japanese frequently use the Gregorian calendar as well as the gengo, the announcement of the new era name remains of public interest as it is widely used in calendars, newspapers and officials documents.

The current Heisei era, which means "achieving peace," commenced on Jan. 8, 1989, the day after Emperor Showa, the father of the current emperor widely known as Emperor Hirohito, died. It will end on April 30 next year, when the sitting emperor abdicates.

In a rare video message in August 2016, Emperor Akihito, 85, expressed his desire to step down as the first living Japanese monarch in about 200 years to do so, citing concerns about his advanced age and weakening health.

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