When I’m in Japan, one of the things that can really stump Japanese is when you ask them what year they were born? What year was the structure or business started?
In the US, we are used to going by a year such as: This person was born in 1979. That structure was build in 1907.
But in Japan, it’s different. Their year is based on when the emperor has began their rule.
So, for Modern Japan: 1867-1912 (Meiji Era), 1912-1926 (Taisho Era), 1926-1989 (Showa Era) and 1989-Present (Heisei Era).
Now anything before the Meiji Era is complicated because Japanese calendar names used different names. For example, Emperor Komei ruled between 1846-1867. 1844-1847 is the Koka Era, 1848-1853 is the Kaei era, 1854-1859 is the Ansei Era, 1860 is the Man’en era, 1861 is the Bunkyu era, 1864 is the Genji Era and 1865 is the Keio Era.
So, I think for most westerners, it’s easier to understand Meiji, Taisho, Showa and Heisei.
So, when you ask someone what year, they will give you the Japanese calendar year.
I asked someone who owns a family business of what year their parents opened their shop and he said Showa 18 which was 1943.
Truthfully, no one from Japan will expect you to know the Japanese calendar years. Although, some may expect you to know your blood type, which many Americans probably don’t know offhand.
But for recent years and communicating with Japanese, sometimes it does help to know the Japanese calendar years. Especially if you are asking questions in relation to what year certain events happened or what year was someone born or something built.
Hope this guide helps.
Heisei Era (1989-Present)
According to Wikipedia: Akihito (Born on December 22, 1993) is the Emperor of Japan. He is the 125th Emperor of his line according to Japan’s traditional order of succession. Akihito succeeded to the Chrysanthemum Throne upon his father Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito)’s death on January 7, 1989. Akihito is expected to abdicate in late March 2019. . The Era of Akihito’s reign bears the name “Heisei” (平成), and according to custom he will be renamed “Emperor Heisei” (平成天皇 Heisei Tennō, see “posthumous name”) by order of the Cabinet after his death. At the same time, the name of the next era under his successor will be established. If the Emperor were to abdicate, he would receive the title of Jōkō (上皇), an abbreviation of Daijō Tennō (太上天皇, Retired Emperor), and a new era would be established.
|2018||Heisei 30||2003||Heisei 15|
|2017||Heisei 29||2002||Heisei 14|
|2016||Heisei 28||2001||Heisei 13|
|2015||Heisei 27||2000||Heisei 12|
|2014||Heisei 26||1999||Heisei 11|
|2013||Heisei 25||1998||Heisei 10|
|2012||Heisei 24||1997||Heisei 9|
|2011||Heisei 23||1996||Heisei 8|
|2010||Heisei 22||1995||Heisei 7|
|2009||Heisei 21||1994||Heisei 6|
|2008||Heisei 20||1993||Heisei 5|
|2007||Heisei 19||1992||Heisei 4|
|2006||Heisei 18||1991||Heisei 3|
|2005||Heisei 17||1990||Heisei 2|
|2004||Heisei 16||1989||Heisei 1 / Showa 64|
Showa Era (1926-1989)
According to Wikipedia: Hirohito (裕仁, April 29, 1901 – January 7, 1989) was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Akihito. In Japan, he is now referred to primarily by his posthumous name, Emperor Shōwa (昭和天皇 Shōwa-tennō). The word Shōwa is the name of the era that corresponded with the Emperor’s reign, and was made the Emperor’s own name upon his death.
|1989||Showa 64 / Heisei 1||1957||Showa 32|
|1988||Showa 63||1956||Showa 31|
|1987||Showa 62||1955||Showa 30|
|1986||Showa 61||1954||Showa 29|
|1985||Showa 60||1953||Showa 28|
|1984||Showa 59||1952||Showa 27|
|1983||Showa 58||1951||Showa 26|
|1982||Showa 57||1950||Showa 25|
|1981||Showa 56||1949||Showa 24|
|1980||Showa 55||1948||Showa 23|
|1979||Showa 54||1947||Showa 22|
|1978||Showa 53||1946||Showa 21|
|1977||Showa 52||1945||Showa 20|
|1976||Showa 51||1944||Showa 19|
|1975||Showa 50||1943||Showa 18|
|1974||Showa 49||1942||Showa 17|
|1973||Showa 48||1941||Showa 16|
|1972||Showa 47||1940||Showa 15|
|1971||Showa 46||1939||Showa 14|
|1970||Showa 45||1938||Showa 13|
|1969||Showa 44||1937||Showa 12|
|1968||Showa 43||1936||Showa 11|
|1967||Showa 42||1935||Showa 10|
|1966||Showa 41||1934||Showa 9|
|1965||Showa 40||1933||Showa 8|
|1964||Showa 39||1932||Showa 7|
|1963||Showa 38||1931||Showa 6|
|1962||Showa 37||1930||Showa 5|
|1961||Showa 36||1929||Showa 4|
|1960||Showa 35||1928||Showa 3|
|1959||Showa 34||1927||Showa 2|
|1958||Showa 33||1926||Showa 1 / Taisho 15|
Taisho Era (1912-1926)
According to Wikipedia: Emperor Taishō (大正天皇 Taishō-tennō, 31 August 1879 – 25 December 1926) was the 123rd Emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 30 July 1912 until his death in 1926. The Emperor’s personal name was Yoshihito (嘉仁). According to Japanese custom, during the reign the emperor is called the (present) Emperor. After death he is known by a posthumous name that, according to a practice dating to 1912, is the name of the era coinciding with his reign. Having ruled during the Taishō period, he is posthumously known as “The Taishō Emperor” or simply “Emperor Taishō”.
|1926||Taisho 15 / Showa 1||1918||Taisho 7|
|1925||Taisho 14||1917||Taisho 6|
|1924||Taisho 13||1916||Taisho 5|
|1923||Taisho 12||1915||Taisho 4|
|1922||Taisho 11||1914||Taisho 3|
|1921||Taisho 10||1913||Taisho 2|
|1920||Taisho 9||1912||Taisho 1|
Meiji Era (1867-1912)
According to Wikipedia: Emperor Meiji (明治天皇 Meiji-tennō, November 3, 1852 – July 30, 1912), or Meiji the Great (明治大帝 Meiji-taitei), was the 122nd Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from February 3, 1867 until his death on July 30, 1912. He presided over a time of rapid change in the Empire of Japan, as the nation quickly changed from an isolationist feudal state to a capitalist and imperial world power, characterized by the Japanese industrial revolution.
In Japan, the reigning Emperor is always referred to as “The Emperor”; since the modern era, a deceased Emperor is referred to by a posthumous name, which is the name of the era coinciding with the Emperor’s reign. Having ruled during the Meiji period, the Emperor is thus posthumously known as “the Meiji Emperor” or simply “Emperor Meiji”. His personal name, which is not used in any formal or official context, except for his signature, was Mutsuhito .