Emperor Akihito has recalled his trip last year to Palau, the site of fierce fighting in World War II, in a poem recited Thursday at the annual New Year Poetry Reading Ceremony at the Imperial Palace.
The theme for the waka poems at this year’s reading was hito (the person). Members of the Imperial family contributed poems, which were read out at the ceremony by an orator.
In his poem, the Emperor describes how he felt on Palau’s Peleliu Island in April at the moment when he and Empress Michiko bowed toward nearby Angaur Island after laying flowers at a monument for the war dead.
Fierce fighting took place between Japanese and American troops on both islands. Angaur Island is visible from Peleliu.
The official translation of the Emperor’s poem is as follows:
In fierce battles there
Countless persons lost their lives
I now see the isle
Across and beyond the sea
Lying so green and serene.
The Emperor’s poem as well as poems composed by other members of the Imperial family and 10 poems chosen from roughly 20,000 entries submitted by the public were recited in the traditional style at the reading.
Besides the Imperial Couple, Crown Prince Naruhito, Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko and their daughter Princess Mako were present at the ceremony.
In her poem, Empress Michiko identified herself with a young traveler she imagined on an airplane in the sky at sunset, remembering her trip to Europe and the United States in 1958 before her marriage.
The official translation of the Empress’s poem is as follows:
Towards the crimson cloud
A plane flies at sunset
I picture in my mind
A youth travelling alone
Like myself when I was young.
The English translation of the two poems was provided by the Imperial Household Agency.
In his poem, Crown Prince Naruhito recalled being welcomed with a chorus singing a song in Japanese at a primary school in Spain in June 2013. The song expressed hopes for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.
Crown Princess Masako reminisced in her poem about a meeting last October with high school students exploring ways to help Fukushima Prefecture recover from the disaster.
Waka poetry was developed by the court aristocracy in the sixth century. A tanka, which is typically synonymous with waka, consists of 31 syllables in a pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.
The agency said the theme for next year’s New Year poetry reading is no (field).