The lunisolar Chinese calendar was introduced to Japan via Korea in the middle of the sixth century. After that, Japan calculated its calendar using various Chinese calendar procedures, and from 1685, using Japanese variations of the Chinese procedures. But in 1873, as part of Japan's Meiji period modernization, a calendar based on the solar Gregorian calendar was introduced. In Japan today, the old Chinese calendar is virtually ignored; celebrations of the Lunar New Year are thus limited to Chinese and other Asian immigrant communities.
Japan has had more than one system for designating years. including
- The Chinese sexagenary cycle was early introduced into Japan. It was often used together with era names, as in the 1729 Ise calendar shown above, which is for "the 14th year of Kyōhō, tsuchi-no-to no tori", i.e., 己酉. Now, though, the cycle is seldom used except around New Year.
- The era name (年号 nengō) system was also introduced from China, and has been in continuous use since AD 701. Each Emperor's reign begins a new era; before 1868 era names were often also declared for other reasons. Nengō are the official means of dating years in Japan, and virtually all government business is conducted using that system. It is also in general use in private and personal business.
- The Japanese imperial year (皇紀 kōki, or 紀元 kigen) is based on the date of the legendary founding of Japan by Emperor Jimmu in 660 BC. It was first used in the official calendar in 1873. However, it never replaced era names, and since World War II has been abandoned.
- The Western Common Era (Anno Domini) (西暦 seireki) system has gradually come into common use since the Meiji period. Now, most people know it, as well as era names.