As we write these words, the abdication rituals are underway in Tokyo at the Imperial Palace as Emperor Akihito prepares to step down from his role. This will end the Heisei era and, from May 1st when his son, Naruhito, takes over, mark the formal start of the Reiwa period.
The upcoming, almost unprecedented event has sparked a flurry of contemplation over the social and historical significance of the previous 30 years in Japan.
Unlike when the period changed from Showa to Heisei due to the death of Emperor Hirohito in early 1989 after a long illness, there is no mood of mourning or self-restraint. Instead, people are using the opportunity to wax nostalgic and celebrate everything good about Hirohito’s reign.
Some of this has taken the form of memorabilia and Heisei-themed products, which might well smack of commercial exploitation, but to give credit where credit is due — at least some of these ideas are inventive.
The “Heisei air” project is one such. After all, who doesn’t want to own a can of genuine air from the Heisei period?
Created by Heso Production in Seki, a city in Gifu Prefecture famed for its knives, this can looks like something you might keep emergency supplies in, which it kind of is. The can will always be around for whenever you need to release some 2019 Heisei “air.”
Heso Production’s diligent team gathered some of the final bits of air of the era in the Seki district of Henari (a name that sounds a lot like Heisei), sealed them in cans along with a five-yen coin (signifying good luck), and then put them online for sale for the princely sum of ¥1,080 yen (about $10). The sealing process was carried out at a special commemorative bridge in Henari completed in Heisei 3 (1991) to mark the change over era.
After attracting a heap of press attention for the stunt that is both a little silly yet also charming, the cans of Heisei air go on sale from, not surprisingly, May 1st, the inaugural day of Reiwa, and orders are limited to two cans per person. Heso Production, which is based in Osaka, hopes to sell as many as 1,000 cans.