We don’t think much about it but it is the start of the Post-Christ era. Like everything else we need to place things relative to each other. Time is no different.
In Japan the Gregorian calendar is used in conjunction with the Japanese “nengo” or era name. The present era is Heisei, the name chosen for the present Emperor’s reign which started in 1988. The two Chinese characters of the name means “becoming peaceful”. And it has been relatively peaceful. This year, 2019, is the 31st year of his reign. But this will end on May 1st when he abdicates.
Abdication is not the norm for the Japanese imperial family. Usually they reign until death. This is perhaps only the second time in history that an emperor had abdicated, and the first in modern Japanese history. So the citizens have no idea what to expect.
The country is also holding its breath as to the name of the new era which is being decided by the government at the moment. We will find out on April 1st.