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4–7 September, 2019

Thursday, 5 September | | Miraikan Hall

Talk | Presented in English

The History of Japan’s Era Name Square Ligatures

2019 represents a very important year for Japan: a new era named Reiwa (令和) began on May 1, 2019. Japan’s current and four previous era names are composed of two kanji (also known as ideographs). Japan’s Era Name Law (1979) explicitly requires this, and further states that the two kanji must be easy to read and easy to write, among other criteria. At some point in the late 1970s or early 1980s, a Japanese company coined so-called “square ligature” forms of the current era name at the time, Shōwa (昭和), along with the two previous ones, Taishō (大正) and Meiji (明治): ㍼, ㍽, ㍾. These characters became broadly supported in fonts from the time, and when the Heisei (平成) era began in early 1989, it subsequently received the same two-kanji square-ligature treatment: ㍻. These four two-kanji square ligatures were included in the very first version of Unicode, Version 1.0 (1991), which set a strong precedent for giving Reiwa the same treatment, whose two-kanji square ligature was included in Unicode Version 12.1, released earlier this year. This presentation will explore the history and development of these five two-kanji square ligatures.