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Beginnings: A Buckeyes Abroad Blog by Olivia Sergent

OliviaSergent webI am so incredibly lucky to be able to study in Japan right now. There is so much going on, so much excitement and newness that I feel a little spoiled even though it has nothing to do with me. The most obvious reason is of course the Summer Olympics coming to Tokyo in July. The school year will conveniently end just as they are beginning, so even if I don’t manage to get a ticket to a single event, I’ll still be able to go down to Tokyo and be a part of a significant global tradition.

Perhaps less known to those who do not study Japan or pay much attention to its current events, this is the start of a new era in Japan. At the end of April 2019, Emperor Akihito abdicated, and on May 1 his son Naruhito became the new emperor. It was the first time in almost 200 years that an emperor has abdicated. It was so unprecedented that the Japanese government passed special, one-time-use legislation to permit the abdication to take place. What’s more, even though Prince Naruhito officially became emperor five months ago, the enthronement process is long and involved. There are many ceremonies and formalities involved with three main ones in particular, the second of which, known as the 即位礼 (sokui rei), where the new emperor makes his first accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne, just happened on October 22. The proceedings were televised, and it was declared a national holiday so we didn’t have classes.

OliviaSergent2 webWith a new emperor also comes a new era. Last year was the conclusion of the 平成 (heisei) era, and we have officially entered 令和元年 (reiwa gannen), or reiwa, year one. When you arrive in Japan and fill out all of the paperwork, in the slot for you to fill out the date, many times you see the ‘year’ block pre-filled with a “1” for year one in the era. Maybe it’s nerdy of me to make such a big deal out of a small thing like a box on a form, but I feel like it represents something bigger. There’s a sort of pride in knowing that I’m in Japan witnessing the beginning of something.

Olivia Sergent is studying abroad at the University of Tsukuba in Japan for the 2019-2020 academic year. Olivia is a senior majoring in Japanese and was awarded the Freeman-Asia Scholarship. This is Olivia's first Buckeyes Abroad blog of her education abroad program in Japan.