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Gov't considering informing Crown Prince Naruhito of new era name in advance

TOKYO -- The government is considering informing Crown Prince Naruhito of the next era name shortly before officially announcing it on April 1, those familiar with the matter have revealed.

Japan will change the current era name of Heisei when Crown Prince Naruhito accedes to the Imperial Throne on May 1 following the abdication of Emperor Akihito on April 30.

A government panel on the new era name, chaired by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, decided on Feb. 8 to follow the procedure that was used to change the era name from Showa to the current Heisei in January 1989 when Emperor Akihito ascended to the Imperial Throne after his father Emperor Showa passed away. The decision was reported at a Cabinet meeting the same day.

The panel also includes the three deputy chief Cabinet secretaries Yasutoshi Nishimura, Kotaro Nogami and Kazuhiro Sugita, Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuyuki Furuya, Cabinet Legislation Bureau chief Yusuke Yokobatake and Cabinet Office Administrative Vice Minister Shigetaka Yamasaki.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga announced that the government will promulgate an order on the change of the era name after approving it at a Cabinet meeting on April 1.

The order will stipulate that the new era name will be introduced on May 1 when Crown Prince Naruhito inherits the throne. Since the order will come into force before the Crown Prince's enthronement, Emperor Akihito will sign it.

The government is expected to officially inform not only the Emperor but also the Crown Prince of the new era name shortly before officially announcing it.

The procedure for selecting the new era name will begin when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe commissions scholars to consider the next era name and asks them to propose two to five candidate names each and clarify their meanings and sources.

The chief Cabinet secretary will narrow down candidates to those that meet six conditions. The conditions are that each candidate name has a good meaning that is suitable as an ideal for the public, consists of two kanji characters, is easy to write, is easy to read, consists of characters which have not been used for any past era names or any posthumous names of emperors, and is not in secular use.

After listening to opinions from the Cabinet Legislation Bureau chief, the government will narrow down the candidate names. The final candidates will then be referred to a meeting of experts and their opinions will be reported to the prime minister. The prime minister will listen to opinions from the heads and vice heads of both houses of the Diet. He and all Cabinet ministers will then discuss the matter and approve the order on an era name change at a Cabinet meeting.

This year marks the first time that the government has been openly able to prepare to change the era name in advance. The government was unable to disclose work in advance to change the era name from Showa to Heisei in 1989 because the change could only be made following the demise of Emperor Showa, making it a sensitive issue. At the time, the government secretly commissioned scholars to propose new era names and collected their proposals.

The procedure for selecting the new era name after Showa was approved at a Cabinet meeting on the morning of the day Emperor Showa passed away.

(Japanese original by Junya Higuchi and Minami Nomaguchi, Political News Department)

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