Emperor urges support for disaster victims in New Year’s message

Kyodo

Emperor Akihito urged the public Tuesday in his annual New Year’s message to help those affected by the March 2011 disasters and together tackle the challenges of reconstruction.

“Our country is now going through difficult times because of the earthquake and other factors, but it is my wish that the people’s hearts will always be with the afflicted, and that everyone will support one another to overcome the various challenges,” the Emperor, 79, said in “New Year Thoughts 2013,” released by the Imperial Household Agency.

Looking to the aftermath of the nuclear crisis following the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, Emperor Akihito expressed his sympathy to residents who were displaced from their homes as a result of the triple meltdowns at the poorly protected Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

“My heart goes out to the afflicted people,” the Emperor said, referring to those unable to return to their homes because of radioactive contamination and those forced to endure another harsh winter in temporary shelters.

The Emperor expressed hope that the nation will draw lessons from the triple calamity.

“I sincerely hope that, in the future, the experience of the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami will be fully utilized in disaster prevention education and town planning so that the country moves toward assuring safety and security in the lives of the people,” he said.

At a press conference on his 79th birthday in December, the Emperor touched on proposals to reduce his public duties out of consideration for his age and health but said: “I would like to maintain the status quo for the time being.”

Agency officials said the Emperor and Empress, being very sympathetic to the plight of the people in disaster-stricken areas, are considering attending another government-sponsored memorial ceremony as they did last year.

The agency also released several “waka” (poems) written by the Imperial Couple in 2012 to celebrate New Year’s Day.

In one of his five poems, the Emperor reflects on an occasion when he visited temporary housing in Sendai, one of the three hardest-hit areas.

On visiting the temporary housing in Sendai

Struck by disaster

Now in temporary housing

People are living

I think how bitterly cold

It must become in winter.

He also composed a poem that expresses his gratitude to the people who signed the registry at the Imperial Palace and elsewhere to write goodwill messages and pray for his successful heart bypass surgery in February. The Emperor’s operation was successful and he was discharged in March.

On entering hospital for heart surgery

Concerned for me

My health and my surgery

So many people

Came to sign the register

Grateful am I for their thoughts.

In one of her three poems, Empress Michiko expressed her concern for the victims as she recalled the visits she and the Emperor made this year to the disaster-stricken areas in Miyagi, Fukushima and Nagano prefectures.

Reconstruction

Rising once again

The villagers in the north

Embracing the memory

Of everything lost and gone —

Images of what used to be.