May marks the start of the Reiwa (or 令和) era in Japan. A new era starts each time a new Emperor comes to the throne. The last Emperor (his era was called Heisei or 平成) decided to abdicate as he felt he was getting a bit to old to continue fighting the Jedi led Rebellion. The Emperor doesn’t usually abdicate so they (I’m sure who “they” are but it is probably some branch of the Japanese government) had to come up some sort of ceremony for this. It involved handing back the Imperial Seal among other things. The name Reiwa wasn’t chosen by the new Emperor himself. A special panel formed by the government made the decision. None of them were politicians I should add. They have stated that Reiwa means “beautiful harmony”. Heisei means “peace everywhere” which is quite nice.

The TV footage over the past few days has been much like a similar event in the UK. Lots of interviews with ordinary people asking them what they think about the whole thing. They even had “the Emperor’s biggest fan”. He had a lot of Emperor based memorabilia. I thought he was a bit of a stalker really.

On the first day of the Reiwa era I was in Kyoto. I was going past the Heian Shrine and noticed that it was very busy so I stopped by to see what was happening. Lots of people praying for prosperity in the new era. There was also a big queue to get a monk to write a prayer. People seemed to have special notebooks for this purpose. I saw in the news that some shrines were selling limited edition seals (like the “hankos” Japanese people use instead of signing their name) but I’m not sure that was happening at the Heian Shrine. Japanese people aren’t really religious but they are very superstitious.