History and meaning
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko with family (2013)
On 7 January 1989, at 07:55 AM JST, the Grand Steward of Japan's Imperial Household Agency, Shōichi Fujimori, announced Emperor Hirohito's death at 6:33 AM JST, and revealed details about his cancer for the first time. Shortly after the death of the Emperor, Keizō Obuchi, then Chief Cabinet Secretary and later Prime Minister of Japan, announced the end of the Shōwa era, and heralded the new era name "Heisei" for the new Emperor, and explained its meaning.
According to Obuchi, the name "Heisei" was taken from two Chinese history and philosophy books, namely Records of the Grand Historian (史記 Shǐjì) and the Book of Documents (書経 Shūjīng). In the Shǐjì, the sentence "内平外成" (nèi píng wài chéng; Kanbun: 内平かに外成る Uchi tairaka ni soto naru) appears in a section honoring the wise rule of the legendary Chinese Emperor Shun. In the Shūjīng, the sentence "地平天成" (dì píng tiān chéng; Kanbun: 地平かに天成る Chi tairaka ni ten naru, "peace on the heaven and earth") appears. By combining both meanings, Heisei is intended to mean "peace everywhere". The Heisei era went into effect immediately upon the day after Emperor Akihito's succession to the throne on 7 January 1989.
In August 2016, Emperor Akihito gave a televised address to the nation, in which he expressed concern that his age would one day stop him from fulfilling his official duties. This was an implication of his wish to retire. The Japanese Diet passed a law in June 2017 to allow the throne to pass to Akihito's son, Naruhito. After meeting with members of the Imperial House Council, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announced that 30 April 2019 would be the date set for Akihito's abdication. The Era of Naruhito's reign will begin the next day.