Japanese firms looking to seize business opportunities with new era name

02, Apr. 2019

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TOKYO, Kyodo - Some Japanese companies rushed Monday to secure business opportunities with the unveiling of the new imperial era name, which will be used from May 1, preparing or releasing products inscribed with the two Chinese characters “Reiwa.”

Just 2 minutes and 27 seconds after the televised announcement of the era name, a precision parts manufacturer in Hiroshima Prefecture began accepting orders on its homepage for tin sake cups laser printed with the new era name.

“We're happy because our goal was to launch products within 3 minutes. We hope our customers will use them on a daily basis,” said Shinichi Ikeda, an official of Castem Co.

The company had been hoping to become one of the fastest businesses to produce items in tribute to the new imperial era, which will follow Emperor Akihito's abdication on April 30.

A “gengo” era name is used for the length of an emperor's reign and a change of era is an important event in Japan as gengo are used in minting coins and producing calendars and official documents, among other purposes. The Gregorian calendar is also widely used in the country.

Major calendar manufacturer Todan Co. will produce a desk calendar that starts from May, with its design including the new gengo written by a calligrapher on Monday. Employees worked to dry the ink before transferring the data to its system.

In Tokyo's Jimbocho district, where streets are lined with used bookstores, stamp company Matsushima Seikodo Co. immediately ordered its factory to start making correction seals that can be used for already printed documents that have the current gengo, Heisei, on them.

“It's going to be busy from now on,” said Tatsuaki Koike, a senior official of the company.

Demand is high for such stamps as many Japanese companies and government offices have stocks of documents and envelopes bearing the Heisei era name. Matsushima Seikodo said it has already received thousands of orders for the products, mainly from banks.

A stationery store near Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district, where government ministries and agencies are concentrated, said earlier that it had been receiving inquiries for correction stamps and stickers for era names.

The start of the new era is also raising hopes for improved business sentiment, amid growing fears of recession.

Itoman Co., a sanitary paper maker in the western Japan prefecture of Ehime, hopes to contribute to the celebratory mood by selling boxes of tissues and toilet paper from April 22 in packages designed with Reiwa as well as turtles and cranes, known as symbols of good fortune.

Japanese fan manufacturer Hirai Seikodo Co. in the city of Osaka plans to sell new fans from mid-April with Reiwa on the front and all of the previous gengo on the back, starting from Taika in 645.

While the era change in itself is expected to have a limited impact on the economy, a 10-day holiday through May 6 to celebrate the imperial succession is expected to boost spending, said Koya Miyamae, a senior economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

“The economic effects are estimated at around 377 billion yen ($3.4 billion) throughout the 10 days,” Miyamae said.

With Emperor Akihito stepping down on April 30, the first Japanese monarch to do so in about 200 years, the government decided to announce the gengo a month prior to the imperial succession to minimize possible disruptions caused by the calendar change.

When the Heisei era started in 1989, a number of companies were named after the era name. A credit research agency said similar naming may occur with the Reiwa era.

As of Monday, six companies in Japan had names that read “Reiwa” in Japanese written in hiragana or katakana, according to Tokyo Shoko Research, which looked at a database covering about 3.17 million companies. None of the names used is identical to the two Chinese characters for Reiwa. (Kyodo)