May 29, 2024

平成レトロ / heisei retro is trending ?! ♡ Y2K in Japan

 Good morning everybun ! ᡣ𐭩ྀིྀི

For today’s blog post, I wanted to talk about something I’ve actually been so interested in recently, and really enjoying collecting goods, clothes and accessories from.. which is of course, 平成レトロ , Heisei Retro ⋆ ˚。⋆୨୧˚

I feel that with social media becoming more and more commercialised, trends like this that refer back to the old internet can be comforting, and make me feel nostalgic. I grew up playing games like Nintendogs, Animal Crossing (before it was on the switch!) and Style Savvy, all of which could be considered very heisei retro. Additionally, fashion brands such as Mezzo Piano (as I’m wearing in this blog post later on !) or Angel Blue evoke a super nostalgic, happy feeling for girly fashion lovers, as the pieces are so pastel and cute! These brands, whilst still popular and active now, were also extremely successful in the early 2000s and worn by girls at the time. The pastel, adorable colours and girly elements in these brands are what makes me love them so much, and go back to in times where I am looking for inspiration⋆𐙚₊˚⊹♡

What is 平成レトロ  『Heisei retro』? 

Heisei retro simply refers to the Heisei era in Japan (approx. 1989-2019, I am bad at maths), but you could also think of it like nostalgia for the 90s and early 2000s, as most of the popular Heisei retro goods are from this specific time period. The trend actually seems to have been around for a while, and when I was researching a little for this blog post, I found articles dating back at the very least, to  2021…! That being said, the trend of early 2000s and 90s nostalgia has been popular since far before then, as I can recall y2k fashion trends being popular at least 5-10 years before. Heisei retro style and goods have been trending for quite a while, it seems. I’ve also seen it referred to as Y2K, which I think is the most accurate equivalent in the west, especially for the same colour palette and girly details that can be found in most heisei retro postsᡣ𐭩 •。ꪆৎ ˚⋅

The trend may be popular due to two different groups finding an interest in these goods. Millennials can feel nostalgia for goods they had in their childhood, and Gen Z can discover new characters and goods that feel fresh, but with a unique retro feel that is unlike merchandise currently produced. Many of the Heisei era items such as flip phones, cassette tapes and neon, super bright colours are harder to find nowadays, and so evoke a happy and excitable feeling for those who used to have them as a child, or are first being introduced to them. It also pertains to how most goods these days are so easily attainable,  whereas retro goods tend to be harder to find, discontinued, or only available secondhand. This might appeal to collectors of cute goods, such as Sanrio, as speaking from experience, finding a cute item that’s older merchandise and harder to find online is a great feeling and a joy to own for how unique they seem⋆𐙚₊˚⊹♡


As a Gen Z born in the early 2000s, I really relate to both feelings…! ⋆౨ৎ˚⟡˖ ࣪  I love how many of the characters from this time period are becoming a little more popular, and some are characters I used to know as a child, such as Jewel Pet, Sugar Bunnies, Tea Dogs, Usa Hana, etc. There are so many characters that get released year after year, but something about the bright, whimsical nature of heisei retro characters holds a special spot in my heart. Another equivalent I wanted to share is the 2000s My Little Pony ‘Welcome to Ponyville’ website design, which to me represent what I love so much about this time period for character design. Again I do have to admit my bias as this was my favourite website as a child, but the beautiful pastel colours and rainbow designs are just so adorably girly. Despite being made to advertise the toy line of ponies, the websites charm also lies in the lack of excessive consumerism; there are no in game purchases, or constant product links throughout the site. This uninterrupted view into the whimsical world of My Little Pony is what made me so enthralled with this site as a child, and still hold it in my heart today.౨ৎ

There have also been a lot of newer Sanrio collections inspired by old series, such as their Dreaming Angel series, kogyaru inspired series and Hello Kitty’s anniversary collection. Sanrio introducing newer series introducing these nostalgic themes has been so fun to see, and of course, I had to buy a few of the goods. It seems that these series attracted both old and new fans of the time period, as many of these goods sold out quite quickly. I’m very hopeful that this means we can see even more of the older Sanrio characters such as Charmmy Kitty or Usahana, who are also considered classic heisei retro characters. These charms even include a beaded strap, which is super y2k! I really hope that Sanrio will produce more goods after the success of this nostalgic heisei retro series. 𐙚˙⋆.˚ ᡣ𐭩

What characters and brands are heisei retro ?

There are thousands of characters I could include for this, but to summarise, here are some of the most popular heisei cute character mascots ! I decided to try and focus on the girly, nostalgic characters, although there’s also anime, such as Lucky Star or Chobits, fashion such as Mezzo Piano or Mother Garden, and even electronics, but for the sake of not writing a complete essay I have tried my best to keep it simple. For fashion, girls clothes brands as I mentioned are very heisei retro, as well as kogal clothes, old school Lolita (think Momoko from Kamikaze girls, 2004), Viviko / vivian girls (Vivienne Westwood!), and shinora girls (imitating the colourful, retro style of 90s idol Shinohara). This image is a perfect depiction of the various styles of this time period- from left to right, depicting 90s idol, viviko, shinohara style, kogal (a school uniform variant of gyaru), Lolita, western inspired clothes and elementary school girls clothes. Elementary school clothes could be called jojifuku, or, the western inspired alternative, ‘cutecore’. Styles such as jojifuku are still not entirely mainstream due to the clothes being harder to find and made for a more childish audience (quite literally)! however, I think they capture the heisei retro trend perfectly and are very nostalgic and cute ⋆౨ৎ˚⟡˖ ࣪

For anime, many people may think of titles such as Hamtaro, Detective Conan, Haruhi, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Crayon Shin Chan, Code Geass, Slam Dunk or K-on as staples of that heisei retro, nostalgic time, but there are thousands of titles I can include…! Here’s a very helpful photo that summarises just a few titles that made me feel nostalgic. Voted the most popular during the heisei period by Docomo’s survey, Inuyasha seems to have won by 18.2%. However, this seems impossible to determine, as various web surveys describe different anime as winning the poll for best anime of the time. The results could also vary drastically depending on participants age and even gender, as in 1998, both Cardcaptor Sakura and Cowboy Bebop started airing, both aimed at different target audiences. Furthermore, having such a large gap between the 90s to 2000s for different anime would make this an extremely difficult task that I’m not entirely convinced is possible, at least for me hehe! ⋆౨ৎ˚⟡˖ ࣪

What I am certainly equipped to discuss, however, is the various shojou anime that trended during this time. As an avid anime fan born in the 2000s, I was absolutely blown away by the whimsical and beautiful artwork of magical girl anime
𐙚˙⋆.˚  One of my all time favourite series, Madoka Magica, also has a heisei retro feel to many of the goods from earlier production, such as charms or older figures. Many of the character designs also emulate that bright, nostalgic feel I mentioned earlier. Lafary, a jfashion company, released this compilation of famous heisei era girls anime covers that I’m sure many of you cuties will recognise! Some of my favourites from these lists include kamisama Karin, (middle right of the second row) a goddess magical girl anime that I adored as a child, Pretty Rythm (left) about magical ice skating with adorable outfits, and sugar sugar rune (right) magical girl witches ! I also adore literally every anime in this compilation so it’s very hard to say which one is my favourite, but Mermaid Melody, Shugo Chara and Tokyo Mew Mew are all staple anime of a girl growing up in the 2000s. I found the theme songs extremely catchy (Tokyo Mew Mew especially !) the characters extremely large eyes, bright colours and sparkly art is so iconic and remains one of my favourite parts of the heisei era. This was also reflected in the goods and merchandising for each anime, where everything was shiny, colourful and whimsical, just like the Prism Stone Shop in Pretty Rythm⋆౨ৎ˚⟡˖ ࣪

Prism Stone shop in Pretty Rythm!

Of course I’m a little bias as they’re all very loved by me, but I tried to include brands that weren’t just Sanrio and different colour palettes too…! 𐙚˙⋆.˚ ᡣ𐭩 Some obvious examples of characters for this time period are Mamegoma (adorable pastel seals), Afro dog, mameshiba  (bean dogs!), hamtaro, and Love bunny, all of which are absolutely adorable. Many of these characters still have online profiles and goods available to purchase to this day, with secondhand items selling fast and creating a new demand. However, it would seem that there are still many heisei era characters that have faded into obscurity, and aren’t really talked about often nowadays. ᡣ𐭩

Credit via Nijimen for this useful photo summary, how adorable…. Awawachan is the sweetest (middle) and I cannot believe how many characters I used to obsess over as a child. You might recognise 一期一会 (once in a lifetime encounter)…! This artwork was all over tumblr when I was younger, and is a manga series with many cute goods related. I see this series most frequently mentioned, other than Sanrio characters, when it comes to heisei retro, which could be because of the kogal and gyaru style many of the characters wear in the illustrations, and adorable, nostalgic artwork style. The goods for this series also seem to sell out super fast on mercari, but thankfully I have also spotted some gacha machines around Tokyo selling goods, such as this one in 2024. These gacha machines are, in my opinion, a genius way to get new fans into the series and also appeal to those who loved it before, and again shows how the trend of retro goods has become so prevalent. I adore how unique and cute the art style is !୨୧

How can I incorporate heisei retro into my daily life ?

The easiest way to try and experience the joy of heisei era is to try consuming content from that time period, such as games, anime and manga. My best recommendations would be firstly, getting an emulator on your phone such as Delta to play (I actually made a video recently on my instagram on how to do this !). Using an emulator lets you play games made for the Gameboy and various other consoles, mainly Nintendo such as the DS, entirely for free on your phone or iPad. Using this I was able to play staple games of the heisei era, such as Nintendogs and Animal Crossing Wild World. If you are able to afford it, you could also go a step further and invest in vintage consoles, but these can sometimes be quite expensive secondhand. I recently bought a Hello Kitty phone secondhand and highly recommend something like this, it’s adorable ! I also recommend using websites such as waybackmachine that host the older versions of sites from different time periods, such as the My Little Pony site I mentioned earlier. Furthermore, there are free to download retro games like this category ! You could also try creating a blog such as mine, sites such as Neocities are popular for this. Creating you own blog is super fun, and allows you to experience another part of heisei retro trendsᯓᡣ𐭩

Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to access and buy vintage clothing and goods from sellers on mercari and yahoo japan auctions. I would highly recommend buying from these sites in comparison to others, as the prices are a lot more decent and you can find many cute items! Most of my wardrobe for secondhand clothes, from brands like Liz Lisa, Vivienne Westwood and Mezzo Piano𐙚˙⋆.˚ ᡣ𐭩 For this outfit for my example photo, I’m wearing a Mezzo Piano top and skirt, along with my MCM backpack ♪ I also recommend, if you are able to, looking into what goods you love from the heisei era and adding some cute accessories to your room. Some of my favourite accessories, such as my figure and My Melody collections, were bought almost exclusively from Mercari. The figures I posted above are some of my favourites in my collection, super heisei retro and yet were very affordable to buy! If figure collecting isn’t your thing, stationary collecting, plushies and accessories are all so fun to collect too. If you are also located in Japan (or even just visiting !) I HIGHLY recommend checking the Surugaya stores for older figures and Treasure Factory for heisei goods. Using these shops I have found some ultra rare items for great prices, as well as affordable goods of characters such as Hamtaro and Ocha Ken. I can make a whole new blog post of my specific recommendations for locations that sell various items, but just generally, I suggest you check them out ! ᡣ𐭩ྀིྀི

I hope this blog post was fun to read, and inspired you to look into more heisei era anime, goods and games….! Again, this is just a tiny look into years of media and history, but I wanted to share my favourite parts to the ‘heisei retro’ trend with you, and perhaps inspire others to take inspiration from the cute characters and fashion styles in this time period 𐙚˙⋆.˚ ᡣ𐭩
As always, thank you for reading~♪
Evie xox 
© Eviebunnie