People in Japan reflect on Emperor Akihito’s abdication and express hopes for successor’s reign
Emperor Akihito will step down in favor of his elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, on Tuesday, ending the 31-year Heisei Era, during which he sought to bring the monarchy closer to the people.
Here are some of their reactions:
“I think the emperor is loved by the people. His image is one of encouraging the people, such as after disasters, and being close to the people,” said Morio Miyamoto, 48. “I hope the next emperor will, like the Heisei emperor, be close to the people in the same way.”
“Heisei had a lot of disasters and the economy stagnated. It was a period of transition from the high-growth era, with its ‘Can you work 24 hours?’ mentality. Young people these days don’t think that way. Now it’s more, ‘What can I do to survive?’” said 47-year-old Kaori Hisatomi. “Now thinking patterns have changed. There’s not much confidence the economy will grow in a healthy way. Reiwa is starting at a time when older thinking patterns are mixing with newer ones,” she said, referring to the new era.
“It’s a normal day,” said Masato Saito, a 40-year-old construction worker. “This kind of political stuff is irrelevant to us ordinary people. As long as they make our lives easy to live, that’s all I care about.”
“A lot of things happened in Heisei, including disasters and sad things, so I have mixed feelings,” said Masatoshi Kujirai, 56, on his way to a Shinto shrine to mark the day with his wife. “I’m sad but also hopeful about the next era. I hope it will be a peaceful, gentle period for the second half of my life.”
“It’s a change of era, so I am looking forward to it and hope that it will be an era in which young people can be happy,” said a 50-year-old illustrator who declined to give his name. “The current emperor has been excellent. Thanks to his diplomacy, the negative image of Japan improved. I hope the new emperor will, like his father, continue this peace diplomacy.”
“The emperor worked very hard for 30 years so I hope the handing over of the baton to the new emperor will go smoothly,” said 67-year-old housewife Mikiko Fujii. “If our expectations for the new emperor are too high, it would be hard on him, so I’d like him to do his job bit by bit.”
“It’s a turning point,” said Eiji Kaneko, 44, an Osaka restaurant owner visiting Tokyo with his wife and 4-year-old son. “Heisei came at a time when I was looking for a job. I’m part of the second baby boom, and competition for jobs was intense then. I decided to quit university after two years and start a cafe. Now I’ve got 12 restaurants and also some real estate business. Now Japan is facing a shrinking population, which is going to be tough. But as the number of Japanese decline, I wonder if we won’t be happier. More foreigners are coming to Japan, and that’s helping the economy and starting to change attitudes. Japan is opening up, and Asia is opening up.”