What is Shōwa Era?
昭和 (Shōwa) is the Japanese imperial era that spanned 62 years from December 25th, 1926 to January 7th, 1989.
Origin and Meaning of Shōwa
The 昭和 literally means ‘Bright Harmony’. It derived from the following line in one of ancient Chinese literature, ‘書経’ (The Book of Documents)
(translation) “(Emperor Yao) made people all brightly intelligent. (He) united and harmonized the myriad states”
This name reflected a wish for the peace of the world. Ironically, however, this era saw Japan rather threatening the world peace by its involvement in World War II.
This era is often regarded as a tumultuous period, which saw Japan’s devastating defeat in World War II and subsequent startling recovery – the so-called ‘Japanese economic miracle’. The graph below shows that from 1945 to 1991, Japan’s real GDP per capita in 2011 US$ rapidly increased by 1400%, and reached a very high level, comparable to the one of the United Kingdom and Germany at that time.
“(citation) Maddison Project Database, version 2018. Bolt, Jutta, Robert Inklaar, Herman de Jong and Jan Luiten van Zanden (2018), “Rebasing ‘Maddison’: new income comparisons and the shape of long-run economic development”, Maddison Project Working paper 10”
Near the end of this era, Japan experienced its economic bubble, which is said to have gone so far as to make Tokyo temporarily more valuable than all the land in the US. This colossal bubble eventually burst in a spectacular fashion and played economic havoc at the beginning of the next era, 平成 (‘Heisei’).