Long live the Emperor

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/05/14 03:00 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2006/05/14/597278.aspx

This post is telling a true story.

Not only is it true, but it has been true five different times (with minor, inconsequential variations each time with different people).

It is fair to say that I am hopeful that by posting it that there will not be a sixth time....

Anyway, it went something like this. Someone sent me an email, asking about the .NET Framework's JapaneseCalendar. He had experimentally determined the boundaries for the different eras:

Era #

Date Range


08/09/1868 - 29/07/1912


30/07/1912 - 24/12/1926 


25/12/1926 - 07/01/1989


08/01/1989 - ??/??/????

And as part of his test cases, he needed to know what to fill in for that last date.

In fairness to him and all of the others, none of them are from Japan. They are simply developers/testers using Microsoft products, and they all had in common the fact that they did not look at the help topic....

As gently as I could, I pointed him to that MSDN topic that describes the JapaneseCalendar class, and the similar table that it presents:

GetEra value

Era Name

Era Abbreviation

Gregorian Dates


平成 (Heisei)

平 (H, h)

January 8, 1989 to present


昭和 (Showa)

昭 (S, s)

December 25, 1926 to January 7, 1989


大正 (Taisho)

大 (T, t)

July 30, 1912 to December 24, 1926


明治 (Meiji)

明 (M, m)

September 8, 1868 to July 29, 1912

And of course the important text in the Remarks section:

The Japanese calendar, which is also known as the Wareki calendar, works exactly like the Gregorian calendar, except that the year and era are different.

The Japanese calendar recognizes one era for every emperor's reign. The current era is the Heisei era, which began in the Gregorian calendar year 1989. The era name is typically displayed before the year. For example, the Gregorian calendar year 2001 is the Japanese calendar year Heisei 13. Note that the first year of an era is called "Gannen"; therefore, the Gregorian calendar year 1989 was the Japanese calendar year Heisei Gannen.

(the red emphasis is mine)

It would most definitely be a bad thing if Microsoft (or any company for that matter!) had knowledge of the end of the emperor's reign, and am sure that I am only one of many who would never wish for such knowledge to be in anyone's hands.

The expression from my heritage would be something along the lines of "may he live to be 120" but I would honestly not even want to say that, as it feels ill omened to set any kind of limit here, and I think that what the JapaneseCalendar class does, by not having a maximum date, is a strong and supportive statement of a long and powerful reign that is being [implictly] made....


This post brought to you by "平" (U+5e73, a.k.a. CJK IDEOGRAPH meaning 'flat, level, even; peaceful')

# Gabe on 14 May 2006 2:56 PM:

Is there some way for a user to fill in the end of the 4th era, or will all of Japan have to download the "Emperor has Died" service pack?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 14 May 2006 4:50 PM:

Since that situation would require a new era to be there as well (with an unknown name and short name), an update would be put up on Windows Update, etc....

# Rosyna on 14 May 2006 4:54 PM:

I'd imagine there would be a hotfix released.

And personally, I would have used 中 or 緑. But that's just me.

# Centaur on 15 May 2006 3:31 AM:

> The expression from my heritage would be
> something along the lines of "may he live to be 120"

The Japanese word “banzai” literally translates as “10000 years of age”. So, 120 is obviously way too short.

# Maurits [MSFT] on 15 May 2006 12:51 PM:

Wow, era #2 was short.  Ended on Xmas Eve, too.

# anon on 15 May 2006 4:38 PM:

I haven't tried this in Windows to see how it is handled, but it is also technically correct to call the dates before the death of the Emperor with the name of his reign's era/year, and the dates following the death with the name of the successor's era/gannen: ie. Jan 1-Jan 7 1989 are actually Showa (last year), and Jan 8-Dec 31st are Heisei Gannen.  I don't know if windows displays this or not.

Also, I wonder how the abbreviations (in roman letters) will be handled if the era after Heisei has a name that starts with H, S, T or M.

Windows doesn't include era names for older periods of Japanese history?

# Maurits [MSFT] on 16 May 2006 5:27 PM:

For test purposes, December 23rd 11933 would seem an appropriate choice.  To be patched in the event of the unthinkable, of course.

John Cowan on 16 Dec 2008 2:19 PM:

"May you live to be 120 years and six months."

"Why six months?"

"I don't want you should die *suddenly*."

Also there are the Chasidim of the Dead, the Breslover Chasidim who still recognize Rebbe Nachman of Breslov as their one and only rebbe, notwithstanding he died almost 200 years ago....

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referenced by

2011/02/26 Why I don't like the JapaneseCalendar class #1: Respecting (or at least admitting) the history....

2008/12/16 Grody to the Max[Date]!

2008/04/24 Y oh Y does YYYY sometimes mean YY, you ask?

2007/07/21 Theory vs. practice in software development

2006/10/25 Out of [implied] range

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