Celebrating Japan’s Reiwa Era with the 3 Official Festival Colors

Japan just welcomed the birth of its new era on May 1st, when Crown Prince Naruhito succeeded the throne upon the abdication of his father Jōkō Akihito on April 30th.


Image: Facebook

This is the first time in Japan’s history to start a new era with an abdication rather than the passing of a monarch. As part of the celebrations, the country recently enjoyed a 10-day Golden Week (the official celebration was May 1st, but there were other holidays so they added up to a long week off).

The new era’s name was announced on April 1st as Reiwa (令和), following the previous Heisei (平成) era. Plenty of merchandise centering around the new name suddenly popped up – from Coke and chips to songs and tees. But did you know that there’s also an official color scheme to celebrate the occasion?

The Reiwa Colors

Established in 1953, the Japan Fashion Color Association (JAFCA) is responsible for determining the official colors for imperial festivities like marriages. For the Reiwa era, the association has chosen three colors inspired by spring blossoms, namely ume (plum), sumire (violet) and sakura (cherry blossom).


From left: plum, violet, cherry blossom
Image: JAFCA

The Origin and Meaning of Reiwa

To understand why these colors were chosen, we first have to know what Reiwa means. The name was derived from a verse in the Japanese poem collection Manyoshu (《萬葉集》), depicting plum blossoms in spring. Here’s the verse:

In Kanbun (Chinese):
初春月、氣淑風、梅披鏡前之粉、蘭薫珮後之香。

In Japanese:
初春の月にして、気淑く風らぎ、梅は鏡前の粉を披、蘭は珮後の香を薫らす。

Takashi san from Takakshionary provided an English translation of the verse, which is the most accurate and vivid version I’ve seen so far:

“It is the beginning of spring in the auspicious month, with the glorious weather and peaceful breeze. Plum blossoms are blooming white like beautiful women applying white powder in front of the mirror. The fragrance of orchids is wafting like that of clothes scented with incense.”


Image: BBC

Though 令 almost always means “order” nowadays, it once meant “beautiful” in the olden days. Fans of Story of Yanxi Palace should know this older meaning, which is explained when the protagonist is granted the title “Consort Ling” (令妃) by the Emperor. 令月 can also mean an auspicious month or the second month of the lunar calendar (around March). 和 can mean warm, gentle or peaceful in this verse.

The official English meaning for Reiwa is “beautiful harmony.”

Given the poetic origin of the era’s name, it’s easy to see why these three colors were chosen. The colors are as romantic and peaceful as Reiwa and easy to fall in love with! Are you ready to rock these colors?