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This is the final year of the Heisei Era, which started in 1989 and will end when Emperor Akihito abdicates on April 30. Japan will have a new name for the era that begins with the enthronement of his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, the following day. Along with the Western calender, Japan has used a calendar corresponding to the reign of each emperor since the Meiji Era began in 1868. The Heisei Era, which spanned roughly 30 years, occupies a major part of my 45-year life. It means so much, especially for middle-aged Japanese and younger generations, including myself.

If I look back on this era and sum it up in one phrase, I could call it “the lost three decades.” In other words, Heisei was the time when Japan drastically lost its prominence in the world.

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