Heisei kids: a generation that struggles to dream



“Peter! Come in. What are you doing up at this hour?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Sit, sit.”

I’m glad to see this unexpected visitor. Sometimes I see me in him — me as I was at 14. Yet Reiko says we don’t look at all alike (zenzen nite inai, ぜんぜん似ていない). Well, these things are in the eye of the beholder (miru hito no me ni yotte chigau, 見る人の目によって違う). At times I look at Peter and almost see myself umarekawatta (reincarnated, 生まれ変った).

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“Writing an article for a magazine. It’s no good, though (shippai, 失敗).”

“Can I read it?”

He stands over my shoulder, looking at the screen. “‘I miss the old world’ … what’s that mean (dōiu imi, どういう意味)?”

“It’s just a rough draft (soan, 素案). I’ll show it to you later, when it’s done.”

“What do you mean, ‘the old world’?”

I push “delete” and erase it (kesu, 消す). “This isn’t writing; it’s daydreaming (kūsō suru, 空想する). An old man’s nostalgia (natsukashisa, 懐かしさ) — for a time before the Internet, before cell phones. I bet you can’t even imagine that, eh?”

“I can imagine a lot more than you think!”

This I know is true. He comes across sometimes as a bit slow (nomikomi ga osoi, 飲み込みが遅い). His marks (seiseki, 成績) aren’t good, and his teachers think he’s not too bright. His mother, a teacher herself, basically agrees, and Kimika, though only 10, rides him mercilessly (zankoku ni baka ni suru, 残酷に馬鹿にする). I think I’m the only one to see his hidden potential (senzai nōryoku, 潜在能力). But it’s strange that he doesn’t fight back (teikō shinai, 抵抗しない), doesn’t stand up even to his kid sister.

Confidence (jishin, 自信), that’s what he lacks. Confidence. I was the same at his age. And if I’m right in seeing myself in him, that 自信 will come with a surge before long. If we’re not careful, it’ll become overconfidence (jishin kajō, 自信過剰). That’s what happened with me. It nearly ruined me. Maybe it did ruin me.

“Why can’t you sleep?” I ask.

“I don’t know. Insomnia maybe (fuminshō, 不眠症).”

“Tell me what’s on your mind.”

“I wish I wasn’t me!”


“Why do I have to be me?”

“Well … who would you want to be?”

“Anybody, anybody in the world but me!”

“You can’t mean that.”

“I have this essay (sakubun, 作文) to write. The theme is ‘my dream’ (yume, 夢) — you know, what you dream about doing or being someday when you’re old enough to do something or be somebody. For four hours now I’ve been sitting in front of the screen (gamen no mae de, 画面の前で), trying to come up with something (nanka kangaetsukō to shiteiru, なんか考え付こうとしている). I keep thinking, ‘I bet Kimika could write something real good in no time,’ and here’s me … Nothing! Nothing!”

“Peter, listen … “

“I have no dream!”

“That’s not unusual nowadays, apparently. There was an article in the paper the other day comparing the Heisei (1989) and Showa (1926-89) eras. It reminded us that kids born in Heisei are now old enough to vote (Ima Heisei umare no hitotachi ga senkyoken wo motsu jidai ni natta, 今平成生まれの人たちが選挙権を持つ時代になった). The reporter asked the so-called Heisei children (平成チルドレン) what image Showa brought to mind, and the typical response was, “昭和は夢があった時代だけど今は夢がない” (Showa wa yume ga atta jidai dakedo, ima wa yume ga nai, In the Showa Era there were dreams; now there are none).

“Maybe that’s what I meant about nostalgia for the old world.”

“What’s that got to do with cell phones and the Internet?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that dreams are born of struggle (kutō, 苦闘) rather than push-button convenience (benri, 便利). Or maybe it’s a matter of human relationships (ningen kankei, 人間関係), which seem wider but more fleeting and less deep than they used to be.”

He is thoughtful for a moment. “Maybe I’ll write about that.”


“Yeah … about having no dreams … and about why.”

“Hm. Not a bad idea. In fact … you know what? Maybe I will too.”

He’s suddenly cheerful. “Bet I can do it better!”

“I wouldn’t be surprised!”

Fiction series Keyes’ Point appears on the first Bilingual page of every month.