era in the Japanese calendar is expected to begin on May 1, 2019, following the announced abdication of Japanese Emperor Akihito. This era will be represented
in dates by two names: one consisting of a sequence of two existing kanji and one consisting of a new single Japanese character that combines
those two. (Similarly, the current era Heisei
can be represented by either “平成” or “㍻”.)
The Japanese calendar system and support for era names is essential
for important public sector business functions. Therefore, most software
distributed in Japan will need to adopt the new era name and add font support for the
The current Heisei era has been in place since 1989 — during the
evolution of modern computer systems. Because of this, most software systems
have not been tested for such an event. The exact date of the announcement of
the new era name is unknown, but current expectations are that there will be a
very narrow window for implementing the new era information in IT environments,
perhaps less than a month. Until the announcement, dates in 2019 and beyond will
continue to be written with the Heisei era name and its year numbering.
To prepare as well as possible for this unprecedented event, the Unicode
Consortium has taken the following actions:
The code point U+32FF has been reserved for the new era character.
Once the new era name is announced, the Unicode
Consortium will quickly issue a dot-release (Version 12.1) that will add
that character at the reserved code point, U+32FF, with an appropriate
character name, decomposition, and representative glyph.
Unicode CLDR and
ICU are including test
mechanisms in the 2018 October releases of CLDR 34 and ICU 63. Systems that
use CLDR or ICU (all smartphones, for example) can test using these
Systems and applications that do not use CLDR or ICU will need
to take similar steps for testing.
The short time window between the actual announcement and the
effective date will present challenges to the IT industry. IT systems in Japan
will be expected to have the support in place seamlessly. Because of the narrow
timeframe and the need to upgrade or patch legacy software, it is important to
start now to determine how soon your application/system can add support to your
current implementations, stacks, and dependencies.