Ahead of the change in the era name from the current “Heisei” in May this year, NHK conducted a nationwide public opinion poll to probe views on the Heisei era. Some 79% of respondents characterized the era as “a peaceful era without war” while only 30% described it as “an era that was kind to the socially vulnerable.”
56% say Heisei was an “era of good public safety” while 48% say it was an “era of gender equality”
NHK conducted the survey by postal mail from September through November 2018 on a random sampling basis and targeted 6,000 men and women nationwide aged 18 or over. Valid responses were received from 3,554 of the people polled for a valid response rate of 59%.
Respondents were given a list of eight characteristics and asked if they matched their image of the Heisei era. Some 79% said that Heisei was a “peaceful era without war,” followed by 56% who said it was an “era of good public safety.” Some 48% said that it was an “era of gender equality” and 47% said it was an “era where democracy matured.” Only 40% said that Heisei was an “era of economic affluence” while 39% said it was an “era of strong family ties,” 36% said it was an “era where community members helped each other,” and 30% said it was an “era that was kind to the socially vulnerable.”
88% say the “telecommunications environment” improved during the Heisei era
Asked to assess whether Japan improved or deteriorated with regard to 10 items during the Heisei era, some 88% chose “telecommunications environment,” 82% cited “transportation network,” 75% picked “disaster prevention,” 65% cited “healthcare and the welfare systems,” and 55% selected “education.” Meanwhile, only 49% cited “public safety,” 40% picked “employment and labor environment,” 26% chose the “nation’s economic power,” 25% selected the “international environment surrounding Japan,” and 22% cited “trust in politics” as areas that improved during the Heisei era.
Men, women differ in their perception of the Showa and Heisei eras
Asked whether the Showa (1926–1989) or Heisei era was better, some 55% of respondents said “Showa” while 42% said “Heisei.”
Some 77% of those in their teens and 20s, namely, those born during the Heisei era, said “Heisei,” while 61% of those in their 30s, who were children in the Showa era, said “Heisei.”
In contrast, the majority of those in their 40s or over said the “Showa era,” with the percentage rising with the age group up to age 70. Some 56% of those in their 40s, 66% of those in their 50s, and 69% of those in their 60s selected the “Showa era.” The figure dropped slightly for those age 70 or over, with 58% of those in this age group giving that response.
Hiroshi Shiratori, a Hosei University professor specializing in the history of the Heisei era, comments on the poll findings: “I think many people have an image of the Heisei era as being a peaceful era free of war because it contrasts with the first 20 years of the Showa era, which are strongly associated with war. People in their 40s, 50s, and 60s remember that Japan steadily developed and surpassed many nations during the Showa era so they think the era was a good one. Once we move to those age 70 or over, though, some find the peaceful Heisei era better because they have strong memories of the war even if they are mixed with some nostalgia for the Showa era.”