Tag Archives: Taisho

Riff: Japan Imperial Era Names, a brief primer

Maybe you noticed my affinity towards dropping in Japan imperial era names in reference to “Showa this” or “Taisho that” – In brief, while modern Japan also uses BCE/AD year dating system, also uses imperial eras to count years… in a somewhat confusing manner.


Each Emperor has a name while living (example Hirohito) but their era name also becomes the posthumous name (in Hirohito’s case Showa). When a new imperial reign begins, the numbers start from one.

Birth years and other important dates are generally referenced from this system. I.e. i was born in Showa 45 or 1970.

2019 was an extra anomaly as Emperor Akihito abdicated and his era “Heisei” (which will also be his posthumous name) in his 31st year of reign, and a new era “Reiwa” began on May 1 2019 when his son/heir Naruhito took the throne. So 2019 was both Heisei 31 and Reiwa 1. 2020 is Reiwa 2.

So blah blah blah. I came to tell you that Taisho era is my current topic of interest. This was about 100 years ago and the “jazz age” in Japan as well as west. The previous era “Meiji” was when Japan started opening up to the outside world (a topic in itself) with a charismatic emperor.

Taisho era was different and relatively short and squeezed between the impending militarism which came with Showa and the fundamental societal changes of Meiji.

Taisho saw rise of *western* clothes/styles, dancing, woman’s role expanding with jobs and relative “freedom” of being.

A seminal literary work from this time is Tanizaki’s Naomi which tells the story of a young woman seizing her liberation in all aspects of her life.

Anyhow, here’s an article meaning to share with more about above now that i laid a foundation.

Carry on.

The Taisho Era: When modernity ruled Japan’s masses  BY MICHAEL HOFFMAN SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES

Artifact: Radio (in an Okayama barn)

Artifact: Radio (in an Okayama barn)

Artifact: Camera and stuffed animals (Maniwa, Japan)

Artifact: Camera, and stuffed animals (Maniwa, Japan)

Note: Heavy, apparently expensive. Seemed functional and in good condition when spotted at a coffee shop/café/gallery outside of a little small logging town (Maniwa) like some sort of strange oasis: the front door was rather hidden, they spent 30 minutes preparing a magnificent cup of tea, which came with black pepper. The table was hewn from a massive single log (“massive” trees aren’t really “massive” in Japan by Canadian standards but anyway…) And so many Interesting and cute objects scattered around. Its this sort of randomness that I love love love about living in Japan.

Not for Sale. 

Artifact: Sony Radio and friends (in a coffee shop in Kurashiki, Japan)

Artifact: Sony Radio and other music playing device (Kurashiki, Japan)

In a coffee and toast shop…

Artifact: Radio (in an Okayama bar window)

Radio (in an Okayama bar window)