'Heisei' nostalgia hits Japanese consumers as abdication nears

A printed 2019 (Heisei 31) calendar month of May at a factory of Japan's major calender maker Todan in the town of Ami, Ibaraki prefecture. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With only a month left until Japan leaves the Heisei era behind, products and promotions tied to the 31-year reign of Emperor Akihito are proving to be a hit with consumers.

The 85-year-old Akihito will become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in around two centuries when he steps down on April 30 in favour of Crown Prince Naruhito, who will ascend the throne the next day. The new era name was announced on Monday (April 1) as "Reiwa".

Heso Production, a planning company based in Fukushima Ward, Osaka, is selling more than 10 different products labelled with the Chinese characters of Heisei, including socks, manju sweets and keychains.

The items have been available online and in major JR train stations since early March, and the firm said it saw a rapid increase in inquiries late last month.

One of its top products is a deck of Heisei playing cards, which sell for 800 yen (S$9.75) before consumption tax.

The cards are emblazoned with various popular terms from the Heisei era, such as "Make Drama" from 1996 and "arafo" (around 40) from 2008. The idea is for people to reminisce while playing cards.

Since October, Ezaki Glico Co's Glico Museum in Nishiyodogawa Ward, Osaka, has featured a special exhibition of the little prizes that came in boxes of caramels during the Heisei era.

In March, the museum had its biggest month in terms of visitors since opening in 1972.

According to the museum, prizes in the Showa era (1926-1989) tended to be familiar objects, such as furniture and rings, while in the Heisei era (1989-2019) they became larger, more colourful, and more focused on "parent-child communication", as seen in the moving animal models and mini picture books.

One unexpected market to emerge has been "rush planning" to hold wedding ceremonies before the era name changes.

Life Economic Service Corp, a wedding business based in Kobe, is offering a 30 per cent discount on weddings at the 23 small venues it manages nationwide for ceremonies held by April 30.

The number of interested customers for March and April is up 10 per cent compared with the previous year, the firm said.

Hotel New Otani Osaka in Chuo Ward, Osaka, is offering special plans for weddings held before the era name changes. Customers are offered a night in a suite room or other perks.

"Not everyone wants to hold a ceremony with the new era name. I think there are couples who think, 'We were born in the Heisei era, so let's create a positive punctuation before the era ends,'" a public relations official from the hotel said.

Showa to Heisei by train

Travelling between Showa station on the JR Tsurumi Line in Kawasaki and Heisei station on the JR Hohi Line in Kumamoto is becoming a popular activity among railway enthusiasts.

It all started in January when Twitter user CR Saikyo-sen, a 30-year-old man, spent half a day travelling between the two stations.

"I was born in the 63rd year of the Showa era, so I'm about as old as the Heisei era. I wanted to take a trip connected to the era names," he said.

A photograph he took of his ticket at Heisei station garnered more than 150,000 likes on Twitter.

Others soon set out on the same trip, with some including a stop at Taisho station in Osaka.

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