Photo/IllutrationPeople gather in front of a giant TV screen in Osaka’s Chuo Ward, awaiting the announcement of the new era name, "Reiwa," on April 1. (Yoshinori Mizuno)

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  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

It was the perfect event for lighting up social networks that allow users to instantly share experiences around the world: The announcement of the new era name.

At Shibuya's iconic scramble crossing in Tokyo, throngs of people held their mobile phones toward a massive screen to capture the moment the new era name appeared on it on April 1.

Tomoya Hatano, 19, a sophomore at Tokyo Metropolitan University, and two of his friends arrived at the famed intersection before 10:30 a.m., more than one hour before the announcement. He said he wanted to share the moment with his friends.

However, "Reiwa" was not shown at the moment it was uttered by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, prompting Hatano to confirm it using his mobile phone.

“It’s a good name, partly meaning peace,” said the student, who lives in Hachioji, western Tokyo. “As the Tokyo Olympics and Osaka Expo will be held in the near future, I want it to become an era for us to hold harmony with the world in high regard."

Yu Takada, 29, who was born in the first year of Heisei, felt sentimental about the era change. “It’s sad that the Heisei Era I was born in will come to an end. I feel like it is gone too soon,” she said.

Takada, an office worker of Tokyo’s Ota Ward, was walking in front of Shibuya Station to go shopping when she learned about the new era name on a news site on her mobile phone.

“It sounds somewhat stiff, in my opinion,” said Takada. “It’s hard to understand the meaning. I wish the name were more personable.”

Meanwhile, Kenzo Kosuge, 81, of Yokohama, was in front of the Imperial Palace when he learned of the new name over the radio. He said he was pleased that the kanji character “wa” was part of the name because he hopes “a peaceful and safe era continues.”

“I want Reiwa to become a positive era without bullying or disasters,” he said.

April 1 also marked the beginning of a new adult life for many fresh recruits, as many companies nationwide held welcome ceremonies for new employees.

At Columbus Co., a shoe polish manufacturer in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, three newly hired staff members followed the company’s long tradition started in 1971 of polishing shoes at the welcome ceremony.

Commemorating the era change, veteran employees who entered the company in the first year of Heisei taught the last employees to join in the Heisei Era how to polish shoes.

Among the new hires was 22-year-old Akane Matsuo. Asked about the new era name, she said: “It’s easy to say and write it. I'll get used to it soon.”

Atsushi Yamada, 48, a shoe-polishing instructor for the day, said, “I hope the next era is calm and allows them to work with ease.”