I’ve had some good jobs in my time. Some that were pretty high on the Bureacratic food chain. I’ve had career positions so important I tried to use them for my personal benefit. Like the time I spent a significant portion of my work day trying to start a new buzz word. One that would be used through out the company at meetings, in hallways, and whenever the CEO met with investors. A buzz word so memorable, all would remember when I first uttered it. I came close with “Gestalt” but then everyone used it incorrectly and I just looked like an ingrate when I had to explain its proper usage. But I never had a job that caused the date to be written differently. When you get a job that changes time, that’s a big deal.
The year in Japan is now “1” with the crowning of Emperor Naruhito.
The former Emperor of Japan, Akihito, is now the “Emperor emeritus” of Japan. He was crowned (can you say that? I’m American and we aren’t up on terms associated with a monarchy) in 1989. The years since are referred to as the Heisei era. The number of the year of his reign was on all of my power bills. So, if it was 9/13/2008 (Written as in the USA) the Japanese would be 20/9/13. “20” being how many years the emperor had been ruling. Very confusing to an Expat trying to figure out when the power bill was due.
The Japanese usually don’t get to celebrate the ushering in of a new era because it means the previous one had died. This time, Emperor Akihito (Now the Emperor emeritus) abdicated his throne. Supposed to rule for life, he became the first in 200 years to abdicate. At 85, he felt that he was no longer able to function effectively.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko
Some of you may not have been paying much attention. I get it. It didn’t really grab our attention like when Justin Trudeau became the Prime Minister of Canada.
Now that I have your attention, there’s a book to be written here.
Like you, I’ve seen pictures of the ceremony where there were a couple of wrapped boxes being carried ever so carefully. There are two boxes, each carrying one of the Imperial Treasures. There’s a third but it doesn’t make it in to the actual ceremony. This is the story of what’s in the boxes being used in the Shinto Ceremony establishing Crown Prince Naruhito as Emperor Naruhito.
The working title is:
“The Mirror, the Sword, and the Gem” By Ouisar-san
Once upon a time there was an important Shinto goddess by the name of Amaterasu. She and her brother were typical siblings, and they fought all the time. One fight in particular caused much rancor between them and Amaterasu retreated in a snit.
(Author’s note: insert epic battle scene in the manner of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings)
“Susanoo, you’re a mean brother. I’m moving in to this cave and I’m taking all the light in the world with me. Bye Felicia” Hmph.
She slammed closed the door to the cave like Ouisar-san’s teen-aged daughter used to.
Susanoo said, like all brothers, “I was just kidding, why do you have to be so dramatic all the time?” He was now in trouble with his friends who couldn’t see to play poker. One of his buddies, a minor Shinto deity, made an eight sided mirror, which he shown in to the cave.
Amaterasu was apparently a true beauty and came running out when she saw her face in the mirror along with the green jade jewel her brother held aloft. (I personally would’ve held out for a big diamond but that’s just me)
But, the mirror actually showed the truth of all situations, including that her brother wasn’t unique and that he was just like every other brother in the world, and it was given a name. The mirror ultimately made it to the first Japanese Emperor, Jimmu, in 660 BC. (That one is in Jesus years)
Yata no Kagumi– the Sacred Mirror. And it was passed on to the other emperors as a symbol of wisdom.
Yasaki no Magatama- the Sacred Jewel. And it was passed on to the other emperors as a symbol of benevolence.
The peace could only last so long before Susanoo and his sister Amaterasu went after each other again.
(Author’s note: flashback description of Susanoo and Amaterasu’s mother threatening to send them to bed early if they didn’t stop pickering. The mother’s Imperial drinking goblet was lost in a bar fight)
Susanoo had pushed his sister too far this time. It called for a big gesture. He cut off the tail of an eight headed serpent that was eating the daughters of one his friends. The tip of the tail, which was really a sword, he used to, again, buy his way back in to his histrionic sister’s good graces. (Histrionic is such a charged word. Suffice it to say he was probably driving her crazy thus leading to this poorly used adjective attributed to such behavior)
Kusanagi no Tsuruigi- the Sacred Sword. And it was passed on to other emperors as a symbol of bravery.
The book ends there because the editor saw an opportunity for a second book and thus this one ended with the big question, “What does Amaterasu do with the sword the next time she and her brother fight?”
Even today, the Sacred Mirror, Sword, and Jewel were used in the Shinto ceremony where Crown Prince Naruhito became the 125th Emperor of Japan. Or in this situation, a replica was hidden inside a box. No one has seen the actual Imperial Treasures. The real ones reside in various shrines around Japan. And none of them have been seen either. For all we know, some Expat somewhere bought all three of them at the Kawagoe Shrine Sale.
The picture of the Imperial Jewels in Wikipedia is labeled as “Conjecture.”
I would definitely would have held out for a diamond.
The new era is called “Reiwa” or beautiful harmony.
I hope so. And a big Kanpai to the new Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako.
More reading for all of you Japanophiles.