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Japan’s next era name

thomas

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Here's an interesting article written by an Australian PhD candidate on how Japan's new era name (元号 gengō) might be chosen:


The criteria:
  1. A meaning which fits the citizenry’s aspirations and ideals
  2. Exactly Two Kanji Long
  3. Easy to Read and Write
  4. Not Previously Used
  5. Not in Common Use
  6. The ‘MTSH’ Rule
  7. Combination of Old and New
  8. At Least Three ‘Mora’ Long
Some candidates:

era-names.png


 

Majestic

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安久 Ankyū seems to be the odds-on favorite. The next era name should start with a letter other than M (Meiji), T (Taishō), S (Shōwa), or H (Heisei), in order to easily differentiate it from recent era names and avoid confusion when abbreviating it in romaji. So this favors anything starting with A, or E. It should also be easy to write (this is a recent preference...earlier era names sometimes used difficult-to-write kanji). Ankyū sounds a bit unusual to me, but we'll know for sure in a few days.

1347人が新元号を大予想! 62票を集めて一位に輝いたのは…?(レタスクラブニュース) - Yahoo!ニュース

Edit: Oops I see you already listed the criteria in your post above. I didn't know all of those rules. (Actually, I don't even know what 3-Mora long means... I'll have to look that up).
 
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thomas

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Taken from Mr Magarry’s article:

A ‘mora’ is a unit of sound in Japanese, and any two-Kanji combination will have between two and four. Words with four generally have a pleasing ‘ring’ to the ears. In fact, many words are abbreviated to fit this pattern. Three-mora words still have rhythm, but two-mora words can sound too sharp and quick. Across 1300 years, Japan has never had a two-mora era.
 

joadbres

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The next era name should start with a letter other than M (Meiji), T (Taishō), S (Shōwa), or H (Heisei), in order to easily differentiate it from recent era names and avoid confusion when abbreviating it in romaji. So this favors anything starting with A, or E.

Or I, U, O, K, G, Z, J, C, D, N, F, B, P, Y, W, or R.


(Actually, I don't even know what 3-Mora long means... I'll have to look that up).

The simplest way to conceptualize mora is to think of Japanese haiku. The 5, 7, 5 numbers all pertain to mora, one basic short sound. You can easily calculate the number of mora in something by writing it in hiragana (or katakana), and counting all characters except for small ゃゅょ.

...

As for the 元号, I am curious to see if the current conservative government decides to source the characters from an ancient Japanese text (万葉集, 古事記, 日本書紀, etc.) instead of a Chinese classic. They could easily ask the scholars they consult to focus only on Japanese texts. And convert the chosen characters to 音読み, where needed. A 訓読み元号 would be too strange, I think.
 

joadbres

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I didn't know about this until just now, but apparently with every new era name, a new kanji is created, consisting of the two characters of the era name combined together into one. So the Heisei combined character is this: ㍻. Here are the other three most recent ones: ㍾ ㍽ ㍼.

I don't recall having ever seen one of these merged characters. Now that I am aware of them, I'll have to keep an eye out for them and see if they pop up anywhere in daily life.

You can read a little more about this here: New Japanese Era
 

joadbres

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As for the 元号, I am curious to see if the current conservative government decides to source the characters from an ancient Japanese text (万葉集, 古事記, 日本書紀, etc.) instead of a Chinese classic.

Sure enough, that is exactly what they did. The characters are said to have been sourced from the 万葉集.

That alone would be fine, I think, but the specific passage they cite as being the source is not even a poem! Rather, it is a preface that precedes a collection of 32 poems that were composed during a plum blossom hanami enkai. That preface notes that the poems were composed at the residence of the Dazaifu Governor-General on the 13th day of first (lunar) month of the year. The two characters used in the era name come from the second sentence of that preface, which describes the conditions at the time of the banquet, including the moon (令月) and winds (風和ぎ).

Seriously?

If you are going to source your era name from an ancient poetry collection, you should at least take the characters from a poem itself, not from explanatory text.

It strongly appears as if those who chose the name knew what kind of era name they wanted in advance, and searched through the text to find something that would justify their choice (or directed their chosen "scholars" to do just that). It is bad enough that the principal meaning of the first character is an unpleasant one (command; decree); that, combined with the fact that the era name didn't even come from a poem makes this a completely unsuitable name.

The Japanese people should revolt, and demand that this name be rejected and replaced with something else.
 
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thomas

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If they haven’t revolted over Mr Abe’s security law, his cronyism scandals or his attempts at amending the constitution, why would they scale the barricades over two Chinese characters?
 

joadbres

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You've got to start small and work your way up.

Anyway, these may seem like only two characters, but they will have a long-lasting impact. They will be part of the Japanese zeitgeist.
 

Lothor

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Anyway, these may seem like only two characters, but they will have a long-lasting impact. They will be part of the Japanese zeitgeist.
We'll see. I'm heartened by not having seeing a rise in nationalism in ordinary Japanese people despite the best efforts of the people in charge and their friends in the media to change the values of Japan back to the 1930s over the last six or so years.
 

Toritoribe

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Needless to say, kanji mostly have multiple meanings. 令 indeed can mean "order", but no one think of that meaning from 令嬢, 令息 or 令夫人. If 令和 is read as 漢文, it's 和せしむ since 令 is an auxiliary character(助字) for causative, so I think there's no problem in expressing one's determination "make it be in peace/harmony".

The Japanese people should revolt, and demand that this name be rejected and replaced with something else.
不満を表明するのは個人の自由ですが、もし本当にそのような意図をお持ちなら、大多数の日本人にも理解できるように理由を含めてすべて日本語で表明なさってはいかがですか。じゃないとただの犬の遠吠えですよ。どれだけの人が御意見に納得して同意されるか、中々の見ものではあると思いますが。
 

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不満を表明するのは個人の自由ですが、もし本当にそのような意図をお持ちなら、大多数の日本人にも理解できるように理由を含めてすべて日本語で表明なさってはいかがですか。じゃないとただの犬の遠吠えですよ。どれだけの人が御意見に納得して同意されるか、中々の見ものではあると思いますが。

I don't expect Japanese people to take cues from a foreigner on a matter such as this. If my intention was to persuade them myself, then surely I would attempt to communicate to them in Japanese. And in a venue other than this forum, where I might reach more than a few people.

Rather, I am expressing my hopes and wishes for the Japanese people -- that they come to the realization themselves that this choice of era name is poor, and make their feelings known.

Of course, I don't expect that to happen.
 

Majestic

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I think 令月 (reigetsu) means something closer to "auspicious month" rather than a description of moon conditions.
I think it has a nice ring to it. A lot of foreign commentators have lunged at the "order" meaning of the kanji, without taking into account the various usages. And of course a lot of Japanese commentators (and Dave Spector) have commented on "R-18" (meaning, when the year Reiwa 18 comes around, the abbreviation will be R-18, which is the abbreviation used to indicate restricted/adult content in movies and videos).

I think its unusual they decided to use "wa" again so close after Showa.
Also, I had to look up how to write 令 because I wasn't sure of the stroke order of that last bit. (The calligraphy and IME version is different from how most people write it). Slightly confusing for me.

「令」の書き方 | 漢字の正しい書き順(筆順)
 

Toritoribe

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I don't expect Japanese people to take cues from a foreigner on a matter such as this. If my intention was to persuade them myself, then surely I would attempt to communicate to them in Japanese. And in a venue other than this forum, where I might reach more than a few people.

Rather, I am expressing my hopes and wishes for the Japanese people -- that they come to the realization themselves that this choice of era name is poor, and make their feelings known.

Of course, I don't expect that to happen.
なるほど。正面切って自説を主張する自信などはなから持っていない、気に食わないというだけのただのいちゃもんだったんですね。遠吠えどころか、説得も、気付かれることさえも意図していない単なる呟きでしたか。
 

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I think 令月 (reigetsu) means something closer to "auspicious month" rather than a description of moon conditions.
I think it has a nice ring to it. A lot of foreign commentators have lunged at the "order" meaning of the kanji, without taking into account the various usages.
I know I'm on shaky ground here arguing against someone clearly much better at Japanese than me but regardless of its various uses, surely by far the most common use of 令 that people are going to come across in their everyday lives is in words associated with command? My kanji dictionary for learners of Japanese as a foreign language (i.e., people studying Japanese to acquire a functional ability), gave three examples, with 命令 first followed by 法令 and another similarly stiff official-sounding word. I'm also of the view that the kanji was chosen because of its association with 'command' rather than all that sentimental guff by Abe about flowers blossoming after a cold winter. Some data on the actual use of 令 in Japanese would be welcomed if anyone can dig some out.
 

Toritoribe

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That's not the matter. It's like no one thinks that 霊 means "ghost" in a 元号 霊亀, even if that's the main usage of the kanji. Similarly, people would think "令 as 命令? Ah I see, it's the usage of 令 in 令嬢" if they have decent knowledge of or familiarity with kanji.
 

joadbres

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I think 令月 (reigetsu) means something closer to "auspicious month" rather than a description of moon conditions.

Yes, what you write seems to be correct. I did my research (using a modern Japanese translation of the text I found online) shortly before the flood of translations came yesterday, and apparently was mistaken. I am sorry for posting misinformation.

If the correct translation is "auspicious month", though, then this era name is even on shakier ground. Usually, the two characters in the era name have some kind of symmetry or balance or connection to them, in the source text. For example, 平成 originated from the phrases 内平外成 and 地平天成, appearing in two separate Chinese classic texts. There is a very nice balance at work there. In contrast, the characters of 令和 almost seem to be taken at random from the source passage:

于時初春月 氣淑風梅披鏡前之粉 蘭薫珮後之香

There is no apparent symmetry, balance, or connection.

And, as I mentioned previously, to use an ancient poetry collection as a source, but not specifically take from any of the thousands of poems within it, seems bizarre. This feels forced to me.
 

Toritoribe

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And, as I mentioned previously, to use an ancient poetry collection as a source, but not specifically take from any of the thousands of poems within it, seems bizarre.
As you would know, poems in 万葉集 were written in 万葉仮名, i.e., kanji as a kind of phonogram. I think it's reasonable to use 漢文 parts of it as a source, where kanji were used as an ideogram.
I read a newspaper article this morning that a scholar of Japanese literature 中西進, who is considered the one who offered the idea of 令和 this time, said "there are a few 漢文 parts also in 万葉集, so we can choose candidates from it if there are good ones there" in an interview last year, so he would think about kanji used in 漢文 (i.e. ideogram) in the first place.

Usually, the two characters in the era name have some kind of symmetry or balance or connection to them, in the source text.
Actually, it's not so uncommon to pick up two kanji that are not a pair or counterpart, unlike 平成. For instance, 文禄 is from 凡京武官、毎歳給 (文 means civil servant, and 禄 is salary), or 元文 is from 武創基、集大命 ("武 and 文", "創 and 集" and "元基 and 大命" are corresponding with each other, respectively). There are lots of these types of 元号.
e.g.
天保
欽崇道、永天命

文化󠄁
観于天、以察時変、観乎人文、以成天下

寛政
施之以、寛以済猛、猛以済寛、是以和

寛文
節奏陵而文、生民而安、上下安、巧妙之極也
 

joadbres

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As you would know, poems in 万葉集 were written in 万葉仮名, i.e., kanji as a kind of phonogram. I think it's reasonable to use 漢文 parts of it as a source, where kanji were used as an ideogram.
I read a newspaper article this morning that a scholar of Japanese literature 中西進, who is considered the one who offered the idea of 令和 this time, said "there are a few 漢文 parts also in 万葉集, so we can choose candidates from it if there are good ones there" in an interview last year, so he would think about kanji used in 漢文 (i.e. ideogram) in the first place.

It is true that many kanji appearing within the Manyoshu's poems are used only for their sound, and there are even some poems which were written exclusively with kanji used in that way. However, there are many instances throughout the Manyoshu's poems where kanji are used for their meanings. In other words, the poems of the Manyoshu were written partly in 万葉仮名, but not entirely. With some 4500 poems in the collection, I do not think it would be so hard to find meaning-use kanji suitable for a 元号 among the poems.

However, I do acknowledge one drawback to this, which is that these meaning-use poem characters were originally written to be read with a kun reading, and would need to be converted to an on reading for use in a 元号, if that aspect of the 元号 tradition were to be maintained. The 序文 kanji, written in 漢文 style, do not have that problem.

With all of this in mind, my previous objection to using 序文 kanji is not as strong as before, although using kanji from the poems still seems more suitable to me.

It is good to know that 中西進氏 had previously indicated that he felt it was acceptable to source 元号 candidates from the 序文 parts of the text. Thank you for providing that information.

I will try to reply to your other comments later, but do not have time to do so now.

Thank you for taking the time to prepare your informative comments. I truly appreciate that.
 

TGI-ECT

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I actually did some special Net work through NHK to log some of what was going on that morning when that fella came out to announce the result. I remember he was late.

And oddly enough I still don't care a lot for this choice, but nobody cares what I think, for sure. I had the same feeling the moment I saw the whole announcement thing unfold live.

Did y'all know they are so paranoid of leaks of the choice and they have arrangements whereby if the choice is leaked before the official announcement they have other choices ready to replace the leaked name? They don't allow anyone in that final meeting to have any sort of communications device on their person as they go through security to get into the room where they make the final choice.

This is the third emperor for myself and my family.

I seem to remember the last time was near -- just after the New Year. That year's Showa era would have been a few days or something. I guess I could go check that Wiki thingy, but trying to remember is more fun.

So we have a little over an hour left here folks.

Reiwa . . . Still can't get that to settle down in my mind in a comfortable place. But I suppose it will, because it will get drilled into me really fast at government offices. I still have to spend way too much time at them.

My goodness -- a new emperor. Starting to sink in.
 
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O_O

I don't know what's going on here, but viewing that video on my computer at least, the audio is all screwed up and muffled, like what happens when your speakers are partially disconnected just the right way. (And it's not my speakers, I checked.) You know, when it sounds bizarre and creepy because you only hear this muffled low-pitch garble?

Alien contact, I guess. 😜
Or maybe just a weird audio codec.
 
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