The Heisei era in Japan (1989 to 2019), is perhaps most familiar to people because of the recency of the era, social media, and the way internationalization blossomed during this time. While the changes that occurred in this era were not as monumental as the modernization of the Showa era nor as influenced by western cooking as the Taisho era, the Heisei era saw more subtle, but equally important changes to the Japanese home.
The rise of the Heisei era came about during the Japanese bubble economy, which saw record profits for companies and an increase of people entering the workforce. Notably so, women were entering the workplace rather than being full time stay-at-home wives or mothers. While this did not lead to a rapid equalization of chores and cooking around the house between family members, it did lead to a shift away from Showa era recipes which were complicated and took a lot of time to prepare.
New recipes, often marketed and advertised with monikers like “10 minute cooking!” or “15 minute meals” became very popular in cooking magazines. For women who were working more, in addition to being the primary caretakers in the household, recipes which emphasized simplicity and brevity became key.
Similarly, as more women entered the workplace, more and more people began to buy pre-made, packaged foods from the supermarket for lunch time meals, which led to an increase in these foods in the home, as well.
It is not to say that there wasn’t an increase in men cooking during this time, just that the total amount of housework was still heavily tilted toward women. During this time, the amount of male celebrities and actors pictured cooking on TV increased, among them notably being the group SMAP, which had not one, but two cooking shows in the mid 90s.
Also during this time, home economics and cooking classes for children were made mandatory for junior high school and high school students, and late in 2005, new laws were passed to further increase the amount of education for healthy eating for children.
At the tail end of the Heisei era, we see a new trend emerge that is still very prevalent today: the rise of beautiful food, or food prepared to be photographed and put on social media. This trend grew out of cafe culture and the rise of instagram. In fact, one of the words of the year in Japan in 2017 was “instabae” which means “to shine on instagram.” While not used exclusively for food, anything that might go viral or become popular was tagged “instabae.” However, it was the rise of beautiful food that really pushed this tag into the limelight and made it iconic of the late Heisei era.
About the author:
Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen. Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!