• Kyodo


As Emperor Akihito prepares to abdicate on April 30, over 70 percent of respondents to a Kyodo News poll said the Heisei Era, which started in 1989, was “good” or “relatively good.”

A new era will begin with Crown Prince Naruhito’s ascension to the throne on May 1.

The mail-in survey, conducted from Feb. 6 to March 14, covered 3,000 individuals aged 18 or older across Japan. Valid responses were received from 1,930, of whom 50.4 percent were male and 49.6 percent were female.

Asked about their impression of the era, 14 percent said it was “good” and 59 percent “relatively good,” while 3 percent and 23 percent said it was “bad” and “relatively bad,” respectively.

By age, 29 percent of those under 30 — the largest group among all age brackets — said the Heisei Era was “good,” likely because that demographic didn’t live through the economic boom that preceded the stagnation during their youth.

In contrast, only 10 percent of those aged 60 or over gave a positive assessment of the era.

Although the era was viewed positively overall, despite a prolonged economic downturn, natural disasters and terrorist attacks domestically and abroad made a lasting impression.

Memorable headlines

Asked a multiple-choice question about the top domestic news event of the Heisei Era, 70 percent cited the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku that triggered a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Shoko Asahara
Shoko Asahara | KYODO

For the top international news story, 44 percent cited the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.The deadly 1995 sarin nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway system by the Aum Shinrikyo cult was cited by 50 percent, followed by the Great Hanshin Earthquake that hit Kobe and its vicinity earlier that year at 40 percent.

Social change

Some of the greatest social issues during the Heisei Era have involved the spread of the internet and gender equality.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said Japanese society has become less tolerant, while 41 percent disagreed.

On the spread of the internet, 86 percent viewed it positively and 13 percent did not, with 61 percent of those under 30 having a favorable view — in contrast with only 23 percent of those aged 70 or older.

Dissatisfaction with progress on gender equality during the Heisei Era was widespread, with 86 percent of respondents believing women had not achieved equality with men. Seventy-three percent of women and 71 percent of men said that, while there had been an improvement in women’s status, it was insufficient.

The equal employment opportunity law came into force in Japan in 1986, but many women are still forced to abandon their careers to take care of their children and households.

The percentage of women who thought there had been hardly any improvement in their status was 7 percentage points higher than men who felt the same about the status of women, while the percentage of men who said gender equality had been achieved was 9 points higher than the rate for women.

While only 13 percent said the status of women was satisfactory, younger respondents appeared more satisfied with the level of female empowerment, with 18 percent of those in their 30s and younger viewing it as satisfactory compared with 10 percent among those in their 60s and older.

Notable figures

Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi | KYODO

In a question that asked respondents to pick up to three prime ministers that best represented the Heisei Era, 77 percent cited Junichiro Koizumi, who once said he would “break” his own Liberal Democratic Party, 38 percent said incumbent Shinzo Abe and 22 percent cited Noboru Takeshita, whose government introduced the consumption tax in 1989.
In a similar question for sports figures, baseball player Ichiro Suzuki took first place followed by figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and Mao Asada, a former figure skating world champion.
For entertainers, boy band SMAP — which disbanded in late 2016 — came first, with its track “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” (“The Only Flower in the World”) cited as the most liked song of the era.