August 22, 2007

A Little Date Puzzle

One of my books, published during the Second World War, is dated 2603. Where was the book published?

(Answer below the fold.)

The book was published in Japan. Most books published in Japan at this time, at least the majority of those I have seen, are dated in the usual Japanese dating system, in terms of the year of the reign of the Emperor. The Emperor during the Second World War is known in the West by his given name Hirohito (裕仁), but in Japanese he is known as the Showa Emperor (昭和天皇), and it is this name that is used for dates. In Japanese there are very few circumstances in which it is appropriate to address or refer to a man whom one has not known since childhood by his given name. To refer to the Emperor by his given name is so rude that it offends me, and I am neither Japanese nor particularly sympathetic to monarchy.

The Showa Emperor's reign began in 1926. The year 1943, in which this book was published, is therefore Showa 18 (昭和 十八). This book, ironically, one in English, is dated from 660 BCE, the beginning of the reign of the semi-mythological Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇), the first Emperor of Japan. 660 + 1943 = 2603.

The present Emperor, referred to as Tenno Heika (天皇陛下) "His Majesty the Emperor", will be known after his passing as the Heisei (平成) Emperor, and this is also the name by which the current era is known. Since he ascended the throne in 1989, the current year is Heisei 19 (平成十九).

Posted by Bill Poser at August 22, 2007 01:34 AM