Japanese Eras

Names of Japanese Emperors and their eras or periods from the beginning of the twentieth century right up to the present day.

All our vintage Japanese textiles at Hunted and Stuffed date from some point in the 20th Century from the late Taisho period up to the Mid-Showa period. But what do these Japanese era names mean?

The reign of each Emperor in Japan is given it's own special name, inspired by traditional classical Chinese texts, which sets the tone for the coming period of rule and becomes a vital part of everyday life in Japan. The calendar resets with each new era so for example 1912 is 'Taisho year 1'.

Let’s start with Japanese periods from the start of the 20th Century.

Meiji Period / Meiji Era (1867-1912)

Emperor Meiji Era Period Japan

Emperor Meiji took to the throne at the age of 15 and under his reign Japan transformed from a localised shogun (lords) system to a unified and industrialised world power, known as the 'Meiji Restoration'. His real name was Mutsuhito.


Taisho Era / Taisho Period (1912-1926)

Wedding of crown prince Yoshihito, later Emperor Taisho
Emperor Meiji (Meiji the Great) dies in 1912 and crown prince Yoshihito becomes emperor. The picture above shows his wedding. He names the period “Taisho” meaning ‘great righteousness’.

Western influences, especially Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles, begin to creep into the creative arts mixing with traditional Japanese styles.


Showa Era / Showa Period (1926-1989)

Emperor Hirohito Showa Era Japan
Emperor Hirohito begins his reign.

The name ’Showa” was taken from the Chinese ‘Book Of Documents’ and roughly translates as ‘enlightened peace’, however the period up to 1945 was anything but peaceful. After defeat in WW2 radical change occurred and an economic boom ensued.
Many of our textiles date from the middle of this period.


Heisei Era / Heisei Period (1989-2019)

Emperor Akihito wedding Heisei Era

Crown Prince Akihito & Michiko Shoda at their wedding in 1959. By 宮内庁 / Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Emperor Hirohito dies and Emperor Akihito takes up the throne. Heisei is a name taken from classical Chinese history and philosophy books and is intended to mean “peace everywhere”. We rarely upcycle textiles from this period as it is relatively modern!


Reiwa Era / Reiwa Period (2019-now)

Emperor Akihito steps down at the age of 85, the first to do so in over 200 years and Emperor Naruhito begins his reign. The name Reiwa has many meanings including “auspicious harmony” and “order and peace”. For the first time, the name was taken from Japanese poetry rather than from classic Chinese literature which had always previously been the tradition, specifically an eighth Century anthology called Manyoshu.



Japanese Chrysanthemum Pattern Obi
The throne is known as the Chrysanthemum Throne and this important flower is the symbol of Japan. It appears everywhere throughout society from the cover of the Japanese passport to motifs in textiles and clothing. The detail above is from a Showa period Obi sash which depicts wild chrysanthemums over a woven base of stylised Chrysanthemum pattern. Click here to see the cushions we made from this silk or to find out more about symbols in Japanese textile, click here!

Pin it!
Japanese Eras and Emperors
© Hunted and Stuffed. All rights reserved.