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.

When the Heisei Era began in 1989, 32 out of the 50 top global companies in terms of aggregate market value were Japanese (far outnumbering the 15 in the United States and the three in the United Kingdom). Last year, Toyota Motor Corp. was the only Japanese company in the top 50 list (ranking 35th). Japan's per capita GDP was the world's third-largest in 1989; last year, the nation was ranked 30th, according to the International Monetary Fund. In the early part of the 1990s, Japan's GDP accounted for roughly 18 percent of the global total, but it is down to 5 to 6 percent today. Heisei has indeed been a lost period for Japan's economy and its society.