Cans of 'air of an outgoing era' go on sale in Japan for £7.50 ahead of new emperor

Danielle Demetriou
A can containing the air of Japan's outgoing Heisei era - AFP

Small cans containing air have gone on sale in Japan, as imperial fever sweeps the nation - and inspires businesses - ahead of the abdication of the emperor next week.

The cans, which cost nearly £7.50 (1,080 yen) and contain “the air of an outgoing era”, are on sale in Gifu Prefecture’s village of Henari, whose name fortuitously uses the same kanji symbols as the current imperial era Heisei.

The nation is currently counting down to next Tuesday when Emperor Akihito, 85, will make history by become the first Japanese monarch in centuries to abdicate, bringing to an end the era known as Heisei.

The following day, his son Crown Prince Naruhito will step into his shoes as emperor of Japan, marking the beginning of an official new era for the nation, called Reiwa, meaning beautiful harmony.

The cans of air are the latest in an increasingly inventive range of products celebrating the imperial transition – from commemorative toilet paper to mega-sized burgers.

"Air is free of charge but we hope people will enjoy breathing the fresh air of Heisei after the new era comes, or just keep it as a memento," Minoru Inamoto, company president, told AFP, adding that the plan is to sell 1,000.

The cans are on sale in Gifu Prefecture’s village of Henari Credit: AFP

The rituals-steeped imperial transition is being commemorated in Japan with an unusually long ten-day holiday starting on Saturday, with an official extension of the annual Golden Week break.

As the countdown to the abdication gathers pace, Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko visited the tomb of his father at the Musashino Imperial Graveyard in Hachioji, on the outskirts Tokyo, on Tuesday.

The visit involved an official ceremony reporting his upcoming abdication - one of the last of 11 traditional ceremonies scheduled for the outgoing emperor ahead of his relinquishment of the throne.

It was in 2016 that the widely-respected emperor announced in a video message his wish to step down due to concerns that he could not fulfil his duties due to his advancing age. 

Japanese parliament enacted legislation the following year to enable his abdication, paving the way for his son Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, to ascend the throne following his departure.