Heisei period

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The Heisei period(Japanese:平成時代, Hepburn:Heisei jidai) is the current era in Japan. The Heisei period started on 8 January 1989, the day after the death of the Emperor Hirohito, when his son, Akihito, acceded to the throne as the 125th Emperor. In accordance with Japanese customs, Hirohito was posthumously renamed "Emperor Shōwa" on 31 January 1989.

Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and its relation to other languages, such as Korean, is debated. Japanese has been grouped with language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.

Hepburn romanization is a system for the romanization of Japanese that uses the Latin alphabet to write the Japanese language. It is used by most foreigners learning to spell Japanese in the Latin alphabet and by the Japanese for romanizing personal names, geographical locations, and other information such as train tables, road signs, and official communications with foreign countries. Largely based on English writing conventions, consonants closely correspond to the English pronunciation and vowels approximate the Italian pronunciation.

The Japanese era name, also known as gengō (元号), is the first of the two elements that identify years in the Japanese era calendar scheme. The second element, a number, counts the years since the era began; as in many other systems, there is no year zero. For example, the first year of the Heisei period was 1989 CE, or "Heisei 1", so the year 2019 CE in this scheme is "Heisei 31".


Thus, 1989 corresponds to Shōwa 64 until 7 January, and Heisei 1(平成元年,Heisei gannen, gannen means "first year") from 8 January. To convert a Gregorian calendar year (1989–2019) to Heisei, 1988 needs to be subtracted from the year in question (e.g. 2019 in Heisei: 2019-1988=31; so 2019=Heisei 31).

Shōwa period period of Japanese history within the 20th century CE

The Shōwa period, or Shōwa era, refers to the period of Japanese history corresponding to the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito, from December 25, 1926 until his death on January 7, 1989.

The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used civil calendar in the world. It is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October 1582. The calendar spaces leap years to make the average year 365.2425 days long, approximating the 365.2422-day tropical year that is determined by the Earth's revolution around the Sun. The rule for leap years is:

Every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100, but these centurial years are leap years if they are exactly divisible by 400. For example, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 are not leap years, but the year 2000 is.

The Heisei period will likely end on 30 April 2019 (Heisei 31), the date on which Emperor Akihito is expected to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne. [1]

Abdication voluntary or forced renunciation of sovereign power

Abdication is the act of formally relinquishing monarchical authority. Abdications have played various roles in the succession procedures of monarchies. While some cultures have viewed abdication as an extreme abandonment of duty, in other societies, abdication was a regular event, and helped maintain stability during political succession.

Chrysanthemum Throne

The Chrysanthemum Throne is the throne of the Emperor of Japan. The term also can refer to very specific seating, such as the takamikura (高御座) throne in the Shishin-den at Kyoto Imperial Palace.

History and meaning

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko with family (2013) Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko with the Imperial Family (November 2013).jpg
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko with family (2013)

On 7 January 1989, at 07:55 AM JST, the Grand Steward of Japan's Imperial Household Agency, Shōichi Fujimori, announced Emperor Hirohito's death at 6:33 AM JST, and revealed details about his cancer for the first time. Shortly after the death of the Emperor, Keizō Obuchi, then Chief Cabinet Secretary and later Prime Minister of Japan, announced the end of the Shōwa era, and heralded the new era name "Heisei" for the new Emperor, and explained its meaning.

Japan Standard Time time zone

Japan Standard Time or JST is the standard timezone in Japan, 9 hours ahead of UTC. There is no daylight saving time, though its introduction has been debated several times. During World War II, it was often called Tokyo Standard Time.

Imperial Household Agency civil service

The Imperial Household Agency is an agency of the government of Japan in charge of state matters concerning the Imperial Family, and also keeping of the Privy Seal and State Seal of Japan. From around the 8th century AD up to the Second World War, it was named the Imperial Household Ministry.

Keizō Obuchi The 84th Prime Minister of Japan

Keizō Obuchi was a Japanese politician who served in the House of Representatives for twelve terms and ultimately as the 54th Prime Minister of Japan from 30 July 1998 to 5 April 2000. His political career ended when he suffered a serious and ultimately fatal stroke.

According to Obuchi, the name "Heisei" was taken from two Chinese history and philosophy books, namely Records of the Grand Historian (史記 Shǐjì) and the Book of Documents (書経 Shūjīng). In the Shǐjì, the sentence "内平外成" (nèi píng wài chéng; Kanbun: 内平かに外成る Uchi tairaka ni soto naru) appears in a section honoring the wise rule of the legendary Chinese Emperor Shun. In the Shūjīng, the sentence "地平天成" (dì píng tiān chéng; Kanbun: 地平かに天成る Chi tairaka ni ten naru, "peace on the heaven and earth") appears. By combining both meanings, Heisei is intended to mean "peace everywhere". The Heisei era went into effect immediately upon the day after Emperor Akihito's succession to the throne on 7 January 1989.

Chinese classic texts or canonical texts refers to the Chinese texts which originated before the imperial unification by the Qin dynasty in 221 BC, particularly the "Four Books and Five Classics" of the Neo-Confucian tradition, themselves a customary abridgment of the "Thirteen Classics". All of these pre-Qin texts were written in classical Chinese. All three canons are collectively known as the classics.

<i>Records of the Grand Historian</i> historical record of ancient China

The Records of the Grand Historian, also known by its Chinese name Shiji, is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Han dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father, Sima Tan, Grand Astrologer to the imperial court. The work covers the world as it was then known to the Chinese and a 2500-year period from the age of the legendary Yellow Emperor to the reign of Emperor Wu of Han in the author's own time.

<i>Book of Documents</i> one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature

The Book of Documents or Classic of History, also known as the Shangshu, is one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of ancient China, and served as the foundation of Chinese political philosophy for over 2,000 years.

In August 2016, Emperor Akihito gave a televised address to the nation, in which he expressed concern that his age would one day stop him from fulfilling his official duties. This was an implication of his wish to retire. [1] The Japanese Diet passed a law in June 2017 to allow the throne to pass to Akihito's son, Naruhito. [1] After meeting with members of the Imperial House Council, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announced that 30 April 2019 would be the date set for Akihito's abdication. [1] The Era of Naruhito's reign will begin the next day. [2]

National Diet legislature of Japan

The National Diet is Japan's bicameral legislature. It is composed of a lower house called the House of Representatives, and an upper house, called the House of Councillors. Both houses of the Diet are directly elected under parallel voting systems. In addition to passing laws, the Diet is formally responsible for selecting the Prime Minister. The Diet was first convened as the Imperial Diet in 1889 as a result of adopting the Meiji Constitution. The Diet took its current form in 1947 upon the adoption of the post-war constitution, which considers it the highest organ of state power. The National Diet Building is in Nagatachō, Chiyoda, Tokyo.

Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan heir to the Japanese imperial throne

Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan is the elder son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, which makes him the heir apparent to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Prime Minister of Japan Head of government of Japan

The Prime Minister is the head of government and chief executive of Japan. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the National Diet and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office. He is the chairman of the Cabinet and appoints and dismisses the other Ministers of State. The literal translation of the Japanese name for the office is Minister for the Comprehensive Administration of the Cabinet.


1989 marked the culmination of one of the most rapid economic growth spurts in Japanese history. With a dramatically strengthened yen after the 1985 Plaza Accord, the Bank of Japan kept interest rates low, sparking an investment boom that drove Tokyo property values up 60 percent within that year. Shortly before New Year's Day, the Nikkei 225 reached its record high of 39,000. By 1992, it had fallen to 15,000, signifying the end of Japan's famed "bubble economy". Subsequently, Japan experienced the "Lost Decade", which actually consisted of more than ten years of price deflation and largely stagnant GDP as Japan's banks struggled to resolve their bad debts and companies in other sectors struggled to restructure.

The Recruit scandal of 1988 had already eroded public confidence in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had controlled the Japanese government for 38 years. In 1993, the LDP was ousted by a coalition led by Morihiro Hosokawa. However, the coalition collapsed as parties had gathered only to overthrow LDP, and lacked a unified position on almost every social issue. The LDP returned to the government in 1994, when it helped to elect Japan Socialist (later Social Democrat) Tomiichi Murayama as prime minister.

In 1995, there was a large 6.8 earthquake in Kobe, Hyōgo and sarin gas terrorist attacks were carried out on the Tokyo Metro by the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo. Failure of the Japanese government to react to these events promptly led to the formation of non-government organisations which have been playing an increasingly important role in Japanese politics since.

During this period, Japan reemerged as a military power. In 1991, Japan pledged billions of U.S. dollars for the Gulf War, but constitutional arguments prevented a participation in actual war, leading Iran to criticise Japan for just pledging money and did not appreciate the way Japan co-operated in the Gulf War. However, after the war, Japanese minesweepers were sent as a part of the reconstruction effort. Following the Iraq War, in 2003, Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi's Cabinet approved a plan to send about 1,000 soldiers of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to help in Iraq's reconstruction, the biggest overseas troop deployment since World War II without the sanction of the UN.

On 23 October 2004, the Heisei 16 Niigata Prefecture Earthquakes rocked the Hokuriku region, killing 52 and injuring hundreds (see 2004 Chūetsu earthquake).

After an election defeat, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe resigned suddenly, and in Autumn 2007 Yasuo Fukuda became Prime Minister. Fukuda in turn resigned on September 2008 citing political failings, and Tarō Asō was selected by his party.

In August 2009, for the first time, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won 308 seats in the lower house election, which ended 50 years of political domination by the LDP. As a result of the election, Tarō Asō resigned as leader of the LDP, and Yukio Hatoyama, president of DPJ became Prime Minister on 16 September 2009. However, DPJ soon became mired in party financing scandals, particularly involving aides close to Ichirō Ozawa. Naoto Kan was chosen by the DPJ as the next Prime Minister, but he soon lost a working majority in the House of Councillors election, and the 2010 Senkaku boat collision incident caused increased tension between Japan and China. The 2009–2010 Toyota vehicle recalls also took place during this time.

In 2011, a sumo tournament was cancelled for the first time in 65 years over a match fixing scandal.

On 11 March 2011, Japan suffered the strongest recorded earthquake in its history, affecting places in the northeast of Honshū, including the Tokyo area. [3] The quake's magnitude of 9.0 [4] approached that of the severe 2004 megathrust earthquake. A tsunami with waves of up to 10 meters (32.5 feet) flooded inland areas several kilometers from shore, [5] causing a large number of considerable fires. The epicenter of the quake lay so close to coastal villages and towns that thousands could not flee in time, despite a tsunami warning system. [6] At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and three other nuclear power plants,serious problems occurred with the cooling systems, [7] ultimately leading to the most serious case of radioactive contamination since the Chernobyl disaster (see Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster), as well as ongoing electric power shortages. Following the earthquake, for the first time, the Emperor addressed the nation in a pre-recorded television broadcast.

In August 2011, Kan resigned, and Yoshihiko Noda became Prime Minister. Later that year Olympus Corporation admitted major accounting irregularities. (See Tobashi scheme.) Noda pushed for Japan to consider joining the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, but was defeated in an election in 2012, being replaced by Shinzō Abe.

Abe sought to end deflation, but Japan entered recession again in 2014 largely due to a rise in sales tax to 8%. Abe called an election in December, and promised to delay further sales tax hikes to 2018. He won the election.

In September 2015, after much controversy and debate, the National Diet gave final approval to legislation expanding the Japanese military's role overseas. [8]

In 2018, extraordinarily heavy rainfall in Western Japan led to many deaths in Hiroshima and Okayama. Also, an earthquake struck Hokkaido, killing 41 and causing a region-wide blackout. [9]

Conversion table

A rail pass valid during the year Heisei 18 (which means 2006) JRpassHeisei18.png
A rail pass valid during the year Heisei 18 (which means 2006)
Shōwa 626364
Gregorian 198719881989
Gregorian 1989199019911992199319941995199619971998199920002001200220032004
Gregorian 200520062007200820092010201120122013201420152016201720182019

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 "Japan's emperor to abdicate on April 30, 2019: gov't source". english.kyodonews.net. Kyodo News. 1 December 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  2. Kyodo, Jiji (3 December 2017). "Japan's publishers wait in suspense for next era name". The Japan Times Online. Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  3. Martin Fackler, Kevin Drew: Devastation as Tsunami Crashes Into Japan. The New York Times , 11 March 2011
  4. USGS analysis as of 12 March 2011 Archived 13 March 2011 at WebCite
  5. Massive tsunami caused by quake’s shallow focus. The Hamilton Spectator , 12 March 2011
  6. Japan's catastrophes—Nature strikes back—Can fragile Japan endure this hydra-headed disaster? The Economist , 17 March 2011
  7. K.N.C., H.T., A.N.: Containing the nuclear crisis
  8. Obe, Mitsuru (September 18, 2015). "Japan Parliament Approves Overseas Military Expansion". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
  9. 平成30年北海道胆振東部地震による被害及び消防機関等の対応状況(第25報) (PDF) (in Japanese). Fire and Disaster Management Agency. 14 September 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2018.

Further reading

Preceded by
8 January 1989 – present
Most recent
Preceded by
Post-occupation Japan
Periods of Japanese history
8 January 1989 – present
Most recent