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The new Reiwa Era is now into its third month and histories are starting to appear about the Heisei Era that preceded it. In late June, the publishing arm of the Mainichi Shimbun released a 384-page softcover book titled “Heisei-shi Zenkiroku” (“Chronicle 1989-2019”). The same week, the Nikkei Shimbun countered with its own 312-page work, “Reiwa ni Tsunagu Heisei no 30-nen” (“The 30 years of Heisei that’s linked to Reiwa”).

Having been in Japan since 1965, I can attest to having seen lots of generational changes over the past half century. Superficially at least, the march of progress has been ongoing: smoky Showa-style coffee shops with background music supplied by vinyl LP records have given way to self-serve, smoke-free Starbucks outlets with wi-fi. Neighborhood convenience stores now operate round-the-clock and delivery firms will bring almost anything to your door, practically obviating the need to leave your home to shop.

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