Heisei period

Heisei (平成) is the current era in Japan. The Heisei era started on 8 January 1989, the first day after the death of the reigning Emperor Hirohito. His son, Akihito, succeeded to the throne. In accordance with Japanese customs, Hirohito was posthumously renamed "Emperor Shōwa" on 31 January 1989.

Thus, 1989 corresponds to Shōwa 64 up to 7 January and to Heisei 1 (平成元年 Heisei gannen, gannen means "first year") since 8 January. To convert a Western era year after 1989 to Heisei, subtract 1988—example for 2016: 2016−1988 = Heisei 28.


  • History and meaning 1
  • Events 2
  • Conversation table 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6

History and meaning

On 7 January 1989, at 07:55 JST, the Grand Steward of Japan's Imperial Household Agency, Shōichi Fujimori, announced Emperor Shōwa's death, and revealed details about his cancer for the first time. Shortly after the death of the Emperor, Keizō Obuchi, then Chief Cabinet Secretary and later Prime Minister of Japan, announced the end of the Shōwa era, and heralded the new era name "Heisei" for the new incoming Emperor, and explained the meaning of the name.

According to Obuchi, the name "Heisei" was taken from two Chinese history and philosophy books, namely Records of the Grand Historian (史記 Shiji) and the Classic of History (書経 Shujing). In the Shiji, the sentence "内平外成" (nèi píng wài chéng; Kanbun: 内平かに外成る Uchi tairaka ni soto naru) appears in a section honoring the wise rule of the legendary Chinese Emperor Shun. In the Shujing, the sentence "地平天成" (dì píng tiān chéng; Kanbun: 地平かに天成る Chi tairaka ni ten naru) appears. By combining both meanings, Heisei is intended to mean "peace everywhere". The Heisei era went into effect immediately after the announcement of the new emperor on 8 January 1989.


1989 marked the culmination of one of the most rapid economic growth spurts in Japanese history. With a strong yen and a favorable exchange rate with the US dollar, the Bank of Japan kept interest rates low, sparking an investment boom that drove Tokyo property values up 60 percent within the year. Shortly before New Year's Day, the Nikkei 225 reached its record high of 39,000. By 1991, it had fallen to 15,000, signifying the end of Japan's famed "bubble economy". Subsequently, Japan experienced the "Lost Decade", which actually consisted of more than ten years of price deflation and largely stagnant GDP as Japan's banks struggled to resolve their bad debts and companies in other sectors struggled to restructure.

The Recruit scandal of 1988 had already eroded public confidence in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had controlled the Japanese government for 38 years. In 1993, the LDP was ousted by a coalition led by Morihiro Hosokawa. However, the coalition collapsed as parties had gathered only to overthrow LDP, and lacked a unified position on almost every social issue. The LDP returned to the government in 1994, when it helped to elect Japan Socialist (later Social Democrat) Tomiichi Murayama as prime minister.

In 1995, there was a large 6.8 non-government organisations which have been playing an increasingly important role in Japanese politics since.

During this period, Japan reemerged as a military power. In 1991, Japan pledged billions of U.S. dollars for the Gulf War, but constitutional arguments prevented a participation in actual war. Iran criticised Japan for just pledging money and did not appreciate the way Japan co-operated in the Gulf War. Minesweepers were sent after the war as a part of the reconstruction effort. Following the Iraq War, in 2003, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet approved a plan to send about 1,000 soldiers of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to help in Iraq's reconstruction, the biggest overseas troop deployment since World War II without the sanction of the UN.

On 23 October 2004, the Heisei 16 Niigata Prefecture Earthquakes rocked the Hokuriku region, killing 52 and injuring hundreds (see 2004 Chūetsu earthquake).

After an election defeat, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe resigned suddenly, and in Autumn 2007 Yasuo Fukuda became Prime Minister. Fukuda in turn resigned on September 2008 citing political failings, and Taro Aso was selected by his party.

In August 2009, for the first time, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won 308 seats in the lower house election, which ended 50 years of political domination by the LDP. As a result of the election, Taro Aso resigned as leader of the LDP, and Yukio Hatoyama, president of DPJ became Prime Minister on 16 September 2009. However, DPJ soon became mired in party financing scandals, particularly involving aides close to Ichirō Ozawa. Naoto Kan was chosen by the DPJ as the next Prime Minister, but he soon lost a working majority in the House of Councillors election, and the 2010 Senkaku boat collision incident caused increased tension between Japan and China. The 2009–2010 Toyota vehicle recalls also took place during this time.

In 2011, a sumo tournament was cancelled for the first time in 65 years over a match fixing scandal.

On 11 March 2011, Japan suffered the strongest recorded earthquake in its history, affecting places in the northeast of Honshū, including the Tokyo area.[1] The quake's magnitude of 9.0[2] approached that of the severe 2004 megathrust earthquake. A tsunami with waves of up to 10 meters (32.5 feet) flooded inland areas several kilometers from shore,[3] causing a large number of considerable fires. The epicenter of the quake lay so close to coastal villages and towns that thousands could not flee in time, despite a tsunami warning system.[4] At the Fukushima Daiichi (Fukushima I) and three other nuclear power plants, there occurred serious problems with the cooling systems,[5] ultimately leading to the most serious case of radioactive contamination since the Chernobyl disaster (see 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Fukushima I nuclear accidents), as well as ongoing electric power shortages. Following the earthquake, for the first time, the Emperor addressed the nation in a pre-recorded television broadcast.

In August 2011, Kan resigned, and Yoshihiko Noda became Prime Minister. Later that year Olympus Corporation admitted major accounting irregularities. (See Tobashi scheme.) Noda pushed for Japan to consider joining the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, but was defeated in an election in 2012, being replaced by Shinzō Abe.

Abe sought to end deflation, but Japan entered recession again in 2014 largely due to a rise in sales tax to 8%. Abe called an election in December, and promised to delay further sales tax hikes to 2018. He won the election.

Conversation table

Heisei 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Gregorian 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Heisei 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Gregorian 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015

See also


  1. ^ Martin Fackler, Kevin Drew: Devastation as Tsunami Crashes Into Japan. The New York Times, 11 March 2011
  2. ^ USGS analysis as of 12 March 2011
  3. ^ Massive tsunami caused by quake’s shallow focus. The Hamilton Spectator, 12 March 2011
  4. ^ Japan's catastrophes—Nature strikes back—Can fragile Japan endure this hydra-headed disaster? The Economist, 17 March 2011
  5. ^ K.N.C., H.T., A.N.: Containing the nuclear crisis

Further reading

  • Flath, David. The Japanese Economy (2nd ed. 2005) excerpt and text search
  • Hanson, Marta E. The Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics (2011) excerpt and text search
  • Koo, Richard C. The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics: Lessons from Japan's Great Recession (2nd ed. 2009) excerpt and text search
  • Pascua, Arthur. Devastation in Japan: An Economic Analysis (2012) excerpt and text search, on 2011 Tsunami
  • Schoppa, Leonard J. The Evolution of Japan's Party System: Politics and Policy in an Era of Institutional Change (University of Toronto Press; 2012) 232 pages; Argues that changes starting in the 1990s set the stage for the 2009 victory of the Democratic Party
Preceded by
8 January 1989 – present
Most recent
Preceded by
Post-occupation Japan
Periods of Japanese history
8 January 1989 – present
Most recent