Organized Panel Session
The announcement that the Heisei period will conclude with the retirement of Emperor Akihito on April 30, 2019 provides us the opportunity to view this period as a whole. Historically, this permits scholars to construct a narrative of the period which allows us to understand the key elements of Heisei Japan. While generally put forward as a narrative of decline, looking back over the entire sweep of Heisei Japan other dynamics emerge. The era has been subject to continuous tribulation, as the stable Cold War world the Japanese inhabited changed and continues stubbornly to do so. In the face of disaster, ongoing crises and major transitions Japanese have shown tremendous resilience. Perhaps the most underappreciated aspect of the Heisei experience has been the degree of resistance. This comes in two varieties; the first is resistance to change by those who were most privileged under the old system as the Heisei period began, the second coming from the Japanese people themselves, mostly the young (and especially women), who have comprehensively refused to take up the social roles and responsibilities Japan’s leadership wishes them to assume.
The proposed panel, Paul Dunscomb of the University of Alaska Anchorage, Nicole Freiner of Bryant University, Nathaniel Smith of the University of Arizona, and Michael Strausz of Texas Christian University, will examine aspects of the Heisei period with an eye towards elucidating how these four key words permeate the era. William Tsutsui, president of Hendrix College, will chair the session and lead the discussion.