For Japan, 2019 marks the end of what's known in Japan as the Heisei Era. It will officially come to a close with the ascension of Crown Prince Naruhito in May. The period spanned the last 30 years, during which time Japanese society experienced significant change. NHK World looks back on the major events and developments of the Heisei Era.
On January 7th, Emperor Showa died at the age of 87 and Crown Prince Akihito ascended the throne. Chief Cabinet Secretary Keizo Obuchi announced the name of the country's new era - "Heisei." Since the Meiji Period, each time a different emperor ascends the throne, a new era begins, and it is given a new name, or gengo. Obuchi said in a news conference that "Heisei" means to pursue peace and prosperity throughout the world.
Japan's notorious “bubble economy” brought a gaudy splash of color to people's lives. From far-out cosplay to the inexplicable ganguro craze, young folk couldn't get enough of playing dress-up.
A powerful earthquake devastated the city of Kobe and surrounding areas. More than 6,400 people lost their lives and 300,000 were evacuated.
The myth ends – Japan reexamines itself
The Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult released deadly sarin gas in Tokyo’s subway system during the morning rush hour. 13 people were killed and about 6,300 others injured.
The unlikely pager (or "pocket bell" in Japanese) was hugely popular with businesspeople and schoolgirls alike in the mid-1990s. It fell out of favor with the rise of the so-called Personal Handyphone System, followed by cell phones and smartphones.
Renowned Japanese brokerage Yamaichi Securities collapsed, ending its 100-year history. In the same month, a series of other financial institutions, including Hokkaido Takushoku Bank, went bankrupt, plunging the country into an unprecedented financial crisis. Japan's economy entered a long-term slowdown dubbed "the lost two decades."
A volcano on Miyake Island erupted, forcing all residents to evacuate. The order was lifted nearly four and a half years later, in 2005.
A diplomatic breakthrough in 2002 brought five Japanese abductees back home. North Korea claimed eight others had died, but Japan does not recognize their deaths. The families of the remaining abductees are demanding that North Korea return their loved ones immediately.
Japan's population began decreasing and aging in 2009. According to the Statistics Bureau, the country's population in 2009 was 128 million, down 62,000 from the previous year. It was the first decline since World War Two.
By 2065, the population is expected to shrink to about 88 million.
Japan's struggle with an aging and shrinking population
The Democratic Party scored a landslide victory in the Lower House election on August 30th. It secured 308 of 480 seats in the Lower House -- the largest number by a single party after World War Two. The victory removed the Liberal Democratic Party from power for the first time in 15 years. The democrats and two other parties formed a cabinet. The Democrat-led government lasted about three years.
On March 11th, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated coastal areas of Tohoku in northeast Japan, killing almost 16,000 people. Over 2,500 people remain unaccounted for. Huge numbers of local residents had to evacuate after meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The world's tallest tower, Tokyo’s 634-meter Skytree, opened to visitors. Special illuminations celebrated gold medals won by Japanese athletes at the London Olympic Games.
Mount Ontake in central Japan erupted. 58 people were killed and 5 are still listed as missing. It was the country's worst volcanic disaster in 70 years.
A new Shinkansen bullet train line connecting Japan's main island of Honshu with the northern prefecture of Hokkaido made its first commercial run. With the line's opening, the Shinkansen network now runs from Hokkaido to the southern island of Kyushu.
Augmented reality smartphone game Pokemon GO made its debut in Japan, becoming popular across the country. Crowds of fans could be seen playing the game in public places, causing a commotion at times.
A bill to change the immigration control law was passed. Designed to address Japan's massive labor shortage due to the aging and shrinking population, it will allow more foreigners to stay in Japan and work in blue collar industries.
Opening the door to incoming workers
The Japanese government has announced the name of the new era, "Reiwa." It will begin with the new Emperor's accession on May 1.
The name was taken from the Manyoshu, the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "Culture is nurtured when people bring their hearts together in a beautiful way. 'Reiwa' has such meaning."
Japan prepares to enter new "Reiwa" era
Welcome to Japan at the dawn of the new era