How does the Japanese calendar work?

Although the Western calendar is more commonly used in Japan, the Japanese calendar is still used for official documents. The system is very different from the Western calendar we all know so for this article, we will explain how it works!

When tracing back through history, it is evident that the Japanese calendar was introduced during the 7th century. During that time China was considered a very advanced nation, therefore Japan replicated the Chinese calendar and made one of their own. Although the way they counted the days and months was the same as the Western calendar, counting the years was done very differently. 

The year changed for various reasons, such as when bad events occur, like earthquakes, fire, or a bad harvest due to a series of natural disasters. It also changed when good things  happened, such as the appearance of beautiful clouds or the discovery of a rare tortoise with a pattern like the Big Dipper on its shell.

The change of the era was meant to reset the previous era and start from scratch. Therefore during the early years the calendar changed very frequently.

 This changed during the Meiji era (1868), when they decided to change how the system works. The current traditional Japanese calendar is based on the reign period of the emperor. Each time a different emperor begins to rule, a new counting of the years begins and the period acquires a new name.