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Japan (MNN) — There’s a new day dawning in the land of the rising sun. Japan’s current emperor – Akihito – is stepping down at the end of April. His son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will take over this largely-symbolic yet culturally-vital role on May 1.

The move basically amounts to resignation, which doesn’t seem like a big deal at first glance. Yet, as Takeshi Takazawa of Asian Access explains, “This is the first time a current emperor has decided and requested… that he would resign [and for the] Crown Prince to assume the emperor’s position.

“This is a brand new thing in our history.”

Reiwa: auspicious harmony

As noted here, Emperor Akihito is the first Japanese monarch to step down in 200 years. The change marks the end of an era – the Heisei era, to be exact. Each new emperor gets a new era, which is the basis of Japan’s calendar system.

The new Reiwa era – “auspicious harmony” – begins May 1 with Naruhito’s inauguration. It’s the first era name derived from ancient Japanese poetry instead of Chinese literary classics. The decision breaks with a 1,300-year tradition, Japan Today observes.

Plum tree outside Zendoji Temple. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)“People anticipate a brighter future,” notes Takazawa. “Prime Minister Abe said that each Japanese person will achieve their aspiration, just like the plum flower after a severe winter.

“We’ve gone through many disasters, many incidents. We anticipate a brighter future, and ‘auspicious harmony’ really unites our hearts toward that.”

The Reiwa era will be the first to begin after an emperor’s resignation, instead of his death.

Replacing myth with truth

In centuries past, emperors were viewed as deities. More about that here. Following the end of World War II, however, a new constitution stripped the position of all military and political power. It also separated the Shinto religion from governmental rule.

Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)The emperor was demoted from deity to human figurehead on paper, Takazawa continues, “but, this is the first time that is really tangibly acted out. So, that concept is huge.”

In other words, the emperor is acting publicly like a human, not a deity. It directly contradicts Shinto beliefs so firmly rooted in Japanese society.

Replacing these myths with Gospel truth requires first acknowledging the past – “you have heard it said…” – and then introducing a new concept – “but I say to you…”. It’s the same approach Jesus used in His sermon on the mount.

What now?

Asian Access and its partners want to build on the new optimism being ushered in by Naruhito and the Reiwa era. They’re praying for a new spiritual awakening in Japan. Will you join them?

“[The] God that we believe and we serve – that loves us – is a God of hope. We pray that the people’s anticipation will go toward [the] God who created heaven and earth, including Japan.”

You could also help spread God’s message of hope in Japan this September at the Rugby World Cup. Or, join Asian Access next year at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Contact Asian Access here for more information.

“We are preparing to see a spiritual new era come to Japan, and ‘jump start’ with these two major events,” Takazawa states.

Pray with Asian Access in anticipation of God’s Spirit breaking through hardened hearts in Japan – just like the plum flower breaks into blossom after a severe winter.

 

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