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Essay

Heisei nostalgia

By Patrick St. Michel

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When I roll out of bed every morning, I usually turn the TV on and watch one of the morning shows airing. They run down the day's biggest news stories and usually pad the program out with various easygoing segments suitable for the start of the day.

Recently, however, a new addition to the shows has popped up. Features devoted to the Heisei Era — roughly the start of 1989 until today — have become common. Stories remembering both major news events of the era and lesser happenings such as the debut of Windows 95 in Japan or the opening of Tokyo DisneySea are becoming a staple.

And it isn't stopping there. Commercials have started tapping into the same Heisei nostalgia, including a spot starring J-pop group Arashi for Japan Post that finds them reflecting on the fall of the Berlin Wall, gyaru fashion and ... their own debut. Singer Namie Amuro is nabbing lots of attention, mainly due to her forthcoming retirement but also for reflecting the era she came from. Even random folks on Twitter are posting more about the 1990s, reflecting on things they miss from that time.

That's because this period of time is coming to a close. Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate the throne in the spring of 2019, and shortly afterward a new era will begin in Japan. It remains to be named, but will replace the Heisei Era, which came after the Showa Era. The literal end of an era is upon the country, so naturally people are reflecting on it.

Nostalgia is common all over the world, especially now that it's the 21st century. In the United States, even young adults pine for the past, especially the days when they were kids. I don't think it's a coincidence that one of 2017's biggest games was "Pokemon Go," which connected with many 20-somethings because it reminded them of their youth. Companies, advertisers and even artists have picked up on this too. One of the year's most popular music videos in America so far is the '90s-infused Bruno Mars song Finesse (Remix), performed with rapper Cardi B. And entire TV shows have been pitched around the idea of "Remember the past?"

Japan has also indulged in these kinds of nostalgia, but the inevitable closing of the curtain on the Heisei Era has made it go into hyperspeed. And it's only going to get more intense. I think there will be more TV spots celebrating everything Heisei, while companies will follow Japan Post's lead with new ads and promotions to cater to those with the past on their minds.

So, until the new era kicks in next year, get ready to do a lot of looking back.

平成を懐かしむ

来年の春に予定されている天皇の退位をもって平成の時代が終わる。筆者はテレビ番組のコーナーやコマーシャルにも、この時代を懐かしむ傾向が見られるという。

The Japan Times ST: March 16, 2018

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2018年5月25日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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