Disco's back: Japan grooves to bubble beat for Heisei era sayonara

People celebrate the start of Japan's new Reiwa imperial era at the Maharaja nightclub in Tokyo's Roppongi district, on May 1, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese disco fans hit the dance floor and partied like it was 1989, reliving the glitz of the"bubble economy" heyday that defined the early years of the outgoing Heisei imperial era.

Tuesday night (April 30) was the last chance for nostalgic Japanese to bid sayonara to the three-decade Heisei era, which ended at midnight with the abdication of retiring Emperor Akihito.

New Emperor Naruhito's reign begins Wednesday, ushering in the Reiwa imperial era, meaning "beautiful harmony."

In an echo of the heady "bubble economy" days of early Heisei, women in slinky dresses at the Maharaja Roppongi disco grooved to the beat while mirror balls glittered and veteran disco personality DJ Osshy spun the turntables, with the party culminating in a midnight countdown.

"I used to go to Maharaja every Friday night in the early Heisei days. I feel like I've gone back in time," said Ms Yu Inada, a homemaker.

Ms Inada brought for the occasion a white feather fan, a must-have accessory in the bubble days that she had held on to since then.

"Back then everyday was fun. It was a gorgeous era. Nowadays things are a little plain," she said before hopping on the elevated stage to strut her stuff.

Ms Shirin Higashi, a 54-year-old esthetician, came for the countdown.

"I thought it would be more fun with everyone here than at home alone. I'm happy I could take part in the celebration," she said.

Heisei began in early 1989 at the height of a stock market and real estate bubble, where it seemed money came easy and the good times would never end.

That exuberance fuelled Japan's nightlife, with discos like Maharaja and Juliana's becoming a symbol of the fun and excess of the late '80s and early '90s go-go years.

But with the collapse of the bubble in the early 1990s and subsequent "lost decade" of economic stagnation, extravagance was out and these clubs eventually closed.

Times change, however, and the strobe lights are coming back on.

Maharaja relaunched under new management in 2010 and has now opened six locations, targeting 40 to 60-year-olds, while Juliana's reopened in Osaka in October.

DJ Osshy hosts regular Sunday Disco parties during adult-friendly afternoon hours, and last year established a national "Disco Day" on July 22 - the date when "Saturday Night Fever" premiered in Japan in 1978.

"Disco music has the power to make people move their body and feel energetic and happy, regardless of what era we're in,"DJ Osshy told Reuters after his set.

"From kids to senior citizens, it's something we all have in common," he said. "It transcends generations."

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