From jumping off bridges to waiting in ten-hour long queues, there are plenty of ways to welcome in a new era.

The past two days have seen a historic turn of events in Japan, as Emperor Emeritus Akihito stepped down from the throne and handed the role over to his eldest son, Emperor Naruhito.

This brought an end to the 30-year long Heisei era on April 30, heralding in a new era called Reiwa on May 1, and to mark the occasion, people across the country gathered to celebrate. Given that the country received a one-off national holiday on May 1 to mark the imperial ascension, the atmosphere in Japan was like New Year’s Day, only instead of seeing one year out and ushering in another, people were bidding farewell to a whole era of change.

This added an extra special sense of nostalgia to the stroke of midnight, and for some that meant gathering around screens in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, to mark the occasion whilst thinking back on all the changes made to technology and anime since Heisei began in 1989.

At Tokyo Skytree, the tower was lit up to resemble the Japanese flag, with a projection mapping display that included the message “First Year of Reiwa“.

At Shibuya’s famous Scramble Crossing, people gathered to count down to midnight.

At Yutoku Inari Shrine in Kashima, Saga Prefecture, the grounds were lit up as calligrapher Hosui Yamaguchi wrote the new era name during a live performance.

And in Osaka, people jumped into the canal at Dotonbori, with and without their clothes on.

Once the sun had risen on the first day of Reiwa in Japan, many people chose to visit shrines and temples to pray for the new era. And for many of those people, the best memento of the first day of the first year of Reiwa would be to have the date preserved in a goshuincho seal book, written in beautiful calligraphy by a monk or priest.

However, for those heading to Meiji Jingu in Harajuku, a revered shrine closely associated with the Imperial Family, the wait to have your goshuincho stamped was looooooong.

▼ The wait was said to be a whopping ten hours long.

By the afternoon, shrine staff had to end the day’s goshuincho queue, to prevent people lining up into the wee hours of the night.

At other places around Japan, mascots came out to greet visitors with Reiwa signs by their side at special local events.

The rainy weather on May 1 gave some people the perfect excuse to stay indoors and indulge in Reiwa sweets.

There was no rest for the country’s professional sumo wrestlers, though, who came together to make a very special Reiwa kanji display for the public.

A number of couples chose to celebrate the first day of Reiwa with another celebration: their wedding day.

Whether it involved staying up all night jumping into canals or simply eating sweets indoors, people around Japan certainly celebrated the first day of Reiwa. And the good news is, thanks to Golden Week, we’ve still got another string of holidays up our sleeve to help ease us into the new period in relaxed style. Happy Reiwa everyone!

Source: Twitter/ #令和元年
Featured image: Pakutaso

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