本文摘自《经济学人》网站上的“The Economist explains”专栏。该专栏的目的是为很多“你不知道你不知道”的问题（比如之前的“比特币”，比如本文讨论的“虚拟空管塔”）提供聪明、有见识的答案。希望我们通过持续阅读这些答案能够变得更聪明、更有见识。
Japanese officials have chosen a name for the ______ of rule of Japan’s incoming ______.
The Economist explains
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced the name on Monday in Tokyo.
Why is the Japanese monarchy under threat?
The world’s oldest hereditary monarchy is dwindling
- THE world’s oldest hereditary monarchy is not the British one. At 1,200 years it is a mere babe-in-arms compared to the Japanese imperial family. Traditionalists say Akihito, the current emperor (pictured seated, third from left), can trace his roots back 2,600 years to Emperor Jimmu (descended from the sun goddess Amaterasu). His father, the controversial wartime emperor Hirohito, was considered arahito-gami—a god in human form. Despite the divine status of his ancestors, however, Japan’s 125th emperor suffers from depressingly human ailments: at 83, he is a survivor of prostate cancer and a heart bypass and has asked to step down while still able to perform his duties, which include opening parliament and conducting ceremonies and rituals in his capacity as the head of Shinto, Japan’s native religion. That has triggered much anguished handwringing amongst traditionalists. Why are they worried?
opening: If something such as a meeting or series of talks opens, or if someone opens it, it begins.
capacity: the official position or function that sb has = role
e.g. acting in her capacity as manager
1）世界上最古老的世袭君主制不是英国的君主制。在1,200年的时间里，与日本的皇室相比，它只是一个襁褓中的婴儿。传统主义者说，现在的明仁天皇（图片坐在左边第三位）可以追溯到2600年前的神武皇帝（源自太阳女神天照大神）。他的父亲，有争议的战时裕仁天皇被认为是arahito-gami —— 一个人形的神。然而，尽管他祖先有着神圣的地位，这位日本的第125位天皇仍然令人沮丧地遭受人类疾病的痛苦：83岁的他是前列腺癌和心脏搭桥手术的幸存者，并在仍然能履行职责，其中包括召开议会，以日本本土宗教神道教首领的身分举办典礼和仪式时被要求下台。这在传统主义者中引起了极大的痛苦绝望。他们为什么担心？
- Akihito reigns over a diminished family tree, which was brutally pruned after the second world war by reformist Americans who wanted to limit the number of people who claimed affiliation with the family. They derecognised 11 out of 12 branches of the family and demoted 51 members to commoner status, limiting membership to direct, legitimate male descendants of Emperor Taisho, Hirohito’s father. Akihito’s most immediate heirs are two middle-aged sons with wives past childbearing age, who between them have had three girls and one boy. Japan’s male-only succession law bans the granddaughters from sitting on the Chrysanthemum Throne. That leaves the entire burden of the institution resting on the 10-year-old shoulders of his sole grandson, Prince Hisahito. The dilemma would once have been solved by pressing into service an imperial womb-for-hire, or concubine. That is no longer an option. Without reform, the young prince could be the last in a very long line.
press sb/sth into ˈservice: To press someone or something into service means to use them temporarily for a particular purpose.
e.g. Every type of boat was pressed into service to rescue passengers from the sinking ferry.
line: your family, considered as the people you are related to who lived before you and the people who will live after you 家系；家族；血统
e.g. She comes from a long line of actors.
e.g. It looks as if Joe might be the last of the line (=the last in his family) .
- Last month the cabinet of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, approved a one-off provision allowing Akihito to abdicate, but it dodged the most obvious solution to the drought of babies: an empress. Liberal politicians want to revive a debate that flared a dozen years ago when the then prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, seemed on the verge of allowing female succession. That debate fizzled out after the birth of Hisahito in 2006. The government is trying to avoid fiddling too much with the Imperial Household Law, to avoid raising further questions. Mr Abe’s conservative constituency opposes female succession because of fears it would dilute the “purity” of the imperial line, though it has reluctantly allowed a concession calling for more discussion about the possibility of establishing branch houses headed by married female members of the family. That still leaves options limited.
abdicate: to give up the position of being king or queen
dodge: to deliberately avoid discussing something or doing something = evade
drought: A prolonged dearth or shortage 长期缺乏或不足
on the verge of: to be at the point where something is about to happen
fizzle out: to gradually stop happening, especially because people become less interested
fiddle: To meddle or tamper 干预或篡改
3）上个月，总理安倍晋三内阁批准了一次性条款，允许明仁 退位，但避开了办法针对（男）婴儿不足最明显的解决办法：女天皇。自由党政治家想恢复十几年前爆发的辩论，当时的总理小泉纯一郎似乎差一点允许女性继承（皇位）。 2006年在悠仁诞生之后，这场辩论渐渐消停下来。政府正在试图避免对”帝国家庭法”干涉太多，以免进一步引起疑问。安倍晋三的保守选民反对女性继承，因为担心这会稀释帝国血统的“纯洁”，尽管它不情愿地对更多地讨论建立由皇室家庭的已婚女性家庭成员组成分支家庭的可能性做出了让步。这仍然使可行方案十分有限。
- Most youngsters are indifferent to the imperial family, and its members have struggled to find a role in a country that does not allow them the same outlets for charitable and military pursuits as the British royals. Yet it will probably survive. Traditionalists, who think of the emperor as something like the soul or essence of Japan, will fight tooth and nail to protect it. Mr Abe has proposed reattaching branches of the family tree chopped off during the American occupation, as a way of replenish the stock of potential emperors. But there are serious doubts about letting back in members of the clan who were banished after the war: a report written during the Koizumi era essentially ruled it out. Eventually, the discussion will probably return to female lineage. Seven of the 14 women in the family are unmarried. Public support for allowing one to become an empress is strong. Before that happens, however, expect plenty more twists and turns.
tooth and nail: With every available resource; with unrelenting effort 全力以赴地
lineage: the series of families that sb comes from originally
Crown Prince Naruhito will become emperor on May 1, one day after Japanese Emperor Akihito leaves the position. This will be only the second time in nearly 100 years that Japan has welcomed a new era.
Although use of the era is not required by Japanese law, it is widely used on government and business papers, calendars and other documents.
The current era, known as “Heisei” under Emperor Akihito, has lasted 30 years. The term is often defined as meaning “peace prevails everywhere.” During that period, Japan has not been involved in a war, but has experienced natural disasters and economic troubles.
The new era is to be called “Reiwa.” It was chosen by a group appointed by the government from names suggested by scholars.
Rules require that the name have two Japanese characters, known as Kanji, which are easily read and written but are unusual or literary in nature. The first character can be defined to mean “order” and the second as “harmony” or “peace.”
The term comes from a poem about plum blossoms in a collection of Japanese poems called “Manyoshu.” It is said to have been written about 1,300 years ago.
After the announcement, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke about the meaning of Reiwa. Abe described it as: “culture is born and nurtured as the people’s hearts are beautifully drawn together.” He expressed his wishes that the new era would be "filled with hope.”
Over more than one thousand years, Japanese era names have come from Chinese classic literature. Abe said the “Manyoshu” was chosen because it was Japan’s oldest collection of poetry written by royal family members and ordinary people.
Abe has expressed support for the image of the emperor, who enjoys wide public support.
Japan’s current constitution was written after World War II. The constitution denounces war and gives the emperor no political power.
Emperor Akihito gained what is known as the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989 after the death of Hirohito, Japan’s emperor during World War II.
I’m Mario Ritter.