Today, Crown Prince Naruhito ascends to the throne to become Japan’s emperor, marking the start of a new era for the first time since the 1980s: the Reiwa Era.
In anticipation of this momentous event, Rakuten’s resident Trend Hunter Jun Shimizu made a few bold predictions about how the new era might unfold for the world of e-commerce and consumer trends.
“Consumption habits changed significantly during the Heisei Era,” Shimizu explains. “The economic bubble burst in the 90s and Japan entered a phase in which businesses couldn’t simply come up with new products and expect them to sell.”
“There are a number of factors that are negatively affecting consumption in Japan: falling productivity, the rising consumption tax, government measures to curb overtime (and thereby overtime pay) as well as rising communication costs. These are likely to continue to affect consumption as we move into the Reiwa Era.”
“During Reiwa, we can expect to see consumer trends become even more diverse, as people’s lifestyles and ideals diversify further. It will be an era framed less by big trends and more by a wide range of niche trends,” Shimizu predicts. “I think we will see fewer trends manufactured through advertising on behalf of corporations, and more organic trends originating from consumers themselves.”
For many, the era change will serve as kind of a “super New Year” — one that hasn’t happened in over three decades. Rakuten Ichiba is seeing increased demand from “New Era Resolutioners” – some looking to get into shape or learn guitar.
Meanwhile, a celebratory mood is sweeping the country: Rakuten Ichiba has recorded a tenfold increase in demand for certain wedding goods, as well as an 85% jump in searches for gift envelopes. A spike in demand is also expected for “New Era baby” goods – for those lucky enough to be born in the first months of this auspicious period.
Getting serious about vacation
Japan is currently in the middle of a rare 10-day national holiday. In addition to regular Golden Week period, the imperial succession has added an extra three holidays to the calendar.
While some workers are reportedly at a bit of a loss as to what to do with themselves, the travel industry is looking forward to a flurry of activity. The Trend Hunter is predicting an uptick in demand for tents and outdoor goods, car mattresses and other basic travel goods, as well as increased demand for souvenirs for people returning to their hometowns.
It looks like the trend of “instagenic travel” will continue. Rakuten Travel has compiled lists of destinations with amazing scenery to photograph. The less adventurous among us aren’t left out of the travel boom, however, thanks to “recluse travel” — for those of us who want to enjoy the comforts of resort hotels without needing to venture outside and see the sights.
Sports sports sports!
Olympic fever! Rugby fever! Football fever! Tennis fever!
Enthusiasm for sports is heating up, as the next 18 months will see Japan welcome not only the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, but also the Rugby World Cup. Tennis is also in the spotlight after Naomi Osaka won Japan its first and second ever Grand Slam titles in succession, shooting her to national superstardom.
The FIFA World Cup may be over, but Japan’s football fever isn’t fading anytime soon. The recently announced Rakuten Cup will welcome to Japan two of the world’s biggest soccer clubs — Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona — and include a clash with homegrown Vissel Kobe and its own former FC Barcelona stars. Shimizu is seeing a jump in demand for jerseys and other fan goods.
Meanwhile, Japan is also undergoing something of an esports boom. In what may come as a surprise to those with knowledge of Japan’s love for games, competitive gaming was not legalized until 2018, and the industry is playing catch up — last year the local market grew by a factor of 13. Sales of gaming keyboards and mice are exploding.
Nostalgia for eras bygone: Heisei
In the last days of the Heisei era, Japan overflowed with nostalgia for the three decades gone. “The last [blank] of Heisei” has become a common phrase, and some enterprising individuals even began canning and selling “Heisei air.”
Rakuten Ichiba is selling more and more “retro” appliances, such as miniaturized versions of the Nintendo Famicom — an ’80s game console sold as the NES outside Japan. At the same time, ’90s fashion such as the thick-soled “dad sneakers” and high-heeled boots reminiscent of ’90s pop icon Namie Amuro are also on the rise.
With a mixture of nostalgia and celebration, Japan is saying farewell to 30 years of Heisei and welcoming the new era of Reiwa. Rakuten Today wishes you a Happy New Era and — to those in Japan — a wonderful 10-day holiday!