What is Your Birthdate in Japanese Imperial Years?

In our Japan Post Bank Account article, we looked at the form you need to fill out in order to get your bank account all squared away. During this process, there was one particular field that was asking for your birthday in imperial years. I never could really remember so with a little calculation, I was able to figure out what the imperial date would be.

First, let me start off by saying that you’ll rarely ever have to use this, and it might be a good idea to get a Japanese friend to double check you on the date you come up with. Let’s just give it a try just for fun. Okay?

There are four main eras, gengou (げんごう(元号)), that we can use: The Meiji Era (めいじor 明治), The Taisho Era (たいしょう or 大正), Showa Era (しょうわ or 昭和), and The Heisei Era (へいせい or 平成).
Each of the eras corresponds to a Japanese emperor and the beginning/ending dates of their reign:

MEIJI JIDAI 明治時代 (めいじじだい) or THE MEIJI PERIOD (1868-1912)

Emperor Meiji was Japan’s emperor from September 8th, 1868 until July 30th, 1912.

TAISHOU JIDAI 大正時代 (たいしょうじだい or THE TAISHOU PERIOD (1912-1926)

Emperor Taisho was Japan’s emperor from July 30th, 1912 until December 25th 1926.
That’s interesting, isn’t December 25th Christmas Day?

SHOWA JIDA 昭和時代 (しょうわじだい) or THE SHOWA PERIOD (1926-1989)

Emperor Showa was Japan’s emperor from December 25th, 1926 until January 7th, 1989.

HEISEI JIDA 平成時代 (へいせいじだい) or THE HEISEI PERIOD (1989-Present)

Emperor has been Japan’s emperor from January 8th, 1989 until the present day.

**Interesting little fact- A Japanese emperor’s name changes after they pass away. While they are still living, they go by the birth names. Post death, they take on the name of the era in which they ruled. So the current emperor is Emperor Akihito, but when he passes, he will be known as Emperor Heisei.

First we need to figure out what era your birth year falls under. I’ll use myself as an example. I was born in 1986…crap…I mean, 1980. So if we look at each of the different eras, we see that the year 1980 falls under the Showa era. So that’s the first piece. SHOWA.

Next we just have to calculate how far into Showa’s “reign” * my birth year was. So if we say 1980 minus 1926 we get 54. So I’m Heisei 54, right? Well, that’s what I thought, but according to two different Japanese people, my imperial birthdate is Showa 55, 07/22. I guess it means you count the year the emperor begins his reign, even if he wasn’t in power for the entire year. For example, despite Showa’s rule starting in December of 1926, I still count 1926 as year 1.

*The Japanese emperor is more symbolic than anything these days, I don’t think they have much influence on the Japanese political system (that’s what the Diet (Japanese Congress) is for).

Why don’t you give your birthday a try? Try to find out what your imperial birthdate is. I know people sometimes get a little weirded out telling everybody how old they are. So you don’t have post this one in the comments section unless you want to. If you’re a little shier, you can just send me an email via the “Contact Me” page. I curious to see which period most people fall under.

Thanks for reading today. I’ll see you tomorrow,

Donald Ash

P.S.-I didn’t include any emperors before the Meiji Era. If you were before the Meiji Era began in 18, and you’re still able to type and live an active lifestyle, please email me immediately! I want to know exactly what youth serum you’re drinking.

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  • Anthony

    I wonder if there’s like a special benefit from being born in a certain era. Of course the majority would fall in the Showa period, but with the ones born in 1989 becoming adults now, would we get something they can’t and vice versa.

    I think for now on when someone asks me what year I was born, I’m gonna say Showa 61 just because xD

    • Donald Ash

      He he he. Showa 61, huh? Nice, random, young.

  • Petaris

    Based on your information I must be Showa 56. :)

    • Donald Ash

      Nice. Thanks Petaris

  • LanceT

    “So I’m Heisei 54, right?” Only if you were born in the future and traveled back in time to hang out with us. :)

    Since I was born in Jan. 1981, I guess that makes me Showa 56?

    • Donald Ash

      That sounds about right. Cool! Thanks Lance.

  • Arnold Keij

    Seems i calculated it wrong at some sites lol (because i never heard of this system), thanks for the information.
    Seems i was born in jan 1987, so it’s Showa 62.
    And if someone is born in 1990 it’s Heisei 2.

    What a unique/interessting system. Do we have more of these kinda unique systems?

  • Carolin

    Hey Heisei 54,
    seems like we are in the same period :) I’m Heisei 4 then

  • ヴェンサン

    1985-1926+1 = 60? 多分、「So I’m Heisei 54, right?」の部分は間違いましたか。笑 ありがとうございます!

  • Kara Bradshaw

    I was born 1989…so I would be Heisei 1 wouldn’t I?

    • thejapanguy

      Yep, that’s right, Kara!

      • Kara Bradshaw

        Wonderful! Love reading your blog :) in the works of planning my own move one day

  • Yumei-Cana

    heisei 10 since i was born in 1998

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