When Your New Job Changes Time…



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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 3.23.58 PM

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.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 3.31.33 PM

Image: Wikipedia

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.

Akihito and Japan’s Imperial Treasures that make a man an emperor

Five Things to Know About the Modern Japanese Monarchy










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14 Responses to When Your New Job Changes Time…

  1. Loved this. Have been binge watching NHK online to enjoy all the pageantry of this significant event in Japan. I’m not in touch with my friends from my years in Japan, but I think of them often. Where are you these days? My blog hasn’t been active for years, miss reading all the great writers I enjoyed back in the day. Best, TW, aka TarBuns


    • HEY! So good to hear from you!!! It’s funny- people- including me- blog for about 3 years and then just kind of stop? Not sure why! Trying to get back in to writing now that I’m an emptynester!!!! Wooohoooo
      We are now in Philadelphia- our 6th time to live here. But who’s counting. Where are you now?


      • Hey Emily. I’m still in MIchigan, recently retired from teaching. Wondering what’s next, on a part time basis. Got my passport and a sister who is willing to travel. Want to hit Europe since I’ve never been there. Empty nester, from what my sisters tell me, that is truly traumatic in and of itself. 🙂


      • I’m loving being an empty nester- I’m finally getting some rest from those kids doing God knows what. My sisters are my travel compadres! We usually go somewhere about once a year- it’s a great way to travel! Congrats on retirement! That’s great!


  2. librown50 says:

    Once again you made something very Japanese understandable to me. Think you meant to say “throne” instead of “thrown” as your autocorrect wrote it!One of your biggest fans,Linda BrownSent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device


  3. My parents used to have in their kitchen a calendar set to the Japanese imperial calendar. I used to get annoyed that something so confusing and worthless had to be kept in our house, especially when I was trying to figure out the date of some school event. Now I kind of wish they had kept one of them around for nostalgia’s sake, but of course they threw those away and kept all of the old Sears catalogs, Readers’ Digests, and Dad’s old fishing calendars with the tides marked for each day. (I know this because I spent over a week cleaning out their house, much to their chagrin. How we decide what to keep and what to throw away varies widely, I guess.)

    I was amused that Japanese news coverage of the Imperial handoff was so mild-mannered and low key compared to the British press coverage of the various royal weddings, births, and engagements held in the UK. Nobody in Japan said, ‘Why do we even have a royal family in the first place? Stupid bloody parasites!” Maybe Japan’s press corps is just more polite; or maybe the Japanese Imperial family doesn’t do goofy things in public, like drive expensive SUVs off of the road, or have affairs in expensive hotel rooms and country houses.


    • I am laughing at your hilarious reply! I’m dreading that time of clearing out my Mom’s stuff (sorry Mom- I know you’re reading- but you do have a lot of stuff from the 60’s in your house) I can’t believe that no one is raising a stink about the male only succession…. which if removed would help women move forward on Japan. My humble opinion- what do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Japan is incredibly slooooow in changing its view of gender roles. Recently I was watching a Japanese TV show where the main character is a young professional woman; when one of her coworkers announces she’s quitting because she’s getting married, Main Character scoffs and thinks, ‘Quitting your job because you’re married? How lame!’ I thought, great, some things have changed there.’ Later in the episode however, it turns out she’s jealous and fantasizes about a handsome hunk sweeping her off her feet before proposing marriage. So the idea of the strong independent professional woman hasn’t quite taken off out there, let alone the mere thought of a woman becoming Empress of Japan. Ancient Japan was once a matriarchal country, however—as you pointed out, Amaterasu was the head goddess from whom the Emperors are supposedly descended.

        It might be a great thing for Japanese women if a princess actually ascended the throne, but I wonder how much influence the Imperial Family actually exerts on modern, everyday life. It’s not like here or the UK where fashion bloggers follow whatever Kate or Meghan wears to a public ceremony, or Netflix creates a show about the Queen. The Empress Consort, the emperor’s daughter and female relatives keep a low, almost underground profile; the court’s officials shield the family from the press and the tabloids, and the Japanese press is (I think) overly respectful of the imperial family, to the point where we know very little about them, compared to the Royals in Britain. I think Princess Toshi is being prepared to attend school in Oxford, but beyond that I don’t know if the palace has done anything to ready her for a career as a public leader. (I’ve heard she’s painfully shy, but this is from a Japanese tabloid, the closest you’ll get to public gossip about the Imperials.) But there’s a lot facing Japan right now: an aging, stagnant population that’s lacking enough workers to fill jobs in industry and development, the likelihood the country will have to open its doors to immigration, which once was anathema to Japanese leaders, and the possibility that Japan’s political role in Asia will diminish with the economic growth of China, Indonesia and Korea. The Imperial Family might not matter that much by then: which will be kind of sad, in my opinion.


      • All true. When we were in Japan and Spouse was heading up a big company he saw that there were lots of women at other companies, with prestigious degrees, fluent in English, stagnating at a low level. So, he began to slowly hire them all. Now one of them is the President of the company. He was unusual but it kick started different thinking from within. The leaving work after you get married was a really a tough one on keeping women in the workforce.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. restlessjo says:

    It’s always interesting to see the world through someone else’s eyes. It’s a culture I only know of by reputation, not experience, but I’d love to visit. Not Tokyo though- please 🙂 🙂


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