Western counting years

 西暦(Seireki)

Names of eras

reading

years in that era

1868 年(ねん)

明治

 meeji

めいじ1年(ねん)

1912 年(ねん) 明治    めいじ45
1912年 大正 taishoo  たいしょう
1926年 大正    たいしょう15
1926年 昭和 shoowa  しょうわ
1989年 昭和    しょうわ64
1989年 平成 heesee  へいせい
2004年~ 平成    平成16

 

The Western system of counting years (1998, 1999, 200 etc.) is commonly used in Japan, but the traditional Japanese system, based on the reigns of emperors, is still a part of everyday life. In 1868, the accession of each new emperor has marked the beginning of a new era. Within each era the years are numbered starting with one.
The emperor choose an auspicious  name for his era and after he dies he is known by that name. During the era he is called " Tennoo or Tennoo Heika" ( Emperor or His Majesty).
Former emperor whose first name is Hirohito (by the way the emperor doesn't have surname.) has been known as Showa Tennoo (昭和 天皇)His era is from 1926 to 1989 long and called that era Showa. So if someone in your family born in 1974,
you also say "He/She was born in Showa 49(しょうわ 49ねん)"

Interesting Fact

Workbook page 150, question #7
Fill in each blank with the correct date spelled in hiragana and in kanji, except for years in Gregorian calendar, such as 1996.

7. しょうわ二十年は_______________
  Shoowa 20th is______________________

Majority students have written 1946. It is wrong. You must remember 1926 is Shoowa 1st year. So you must add nineteen not twenty. わかりましたか?
You still don't know? Then check the chart below and find it out yourself.

1926 しょうわ 1
1927 しょうわ 2
1928 しょうわ 3
1929 しょうわ 4
1930 しょうわ 5
1931 しょうわ 6
1932 しょうわ 7
1933 しょうわ 8
1945 しょうわ ?