Emperor Naruhito expressed his hope for a bright future for children in his poem recited Thursday at the first New Year’s Poetry Reading Ceremony held since he ascended to the chrysanthemum throne last year.
The theme of this year’s waka poems was nozomi (hope).
Empress Masako, who has been suffering from a stress-induced illness, attended the traditional ceremony for the first time since 2003, while Crown Prince Akishino and his wife, Crown Princess Kiko, were also among the attendees.
In his poem, the emperor described his feelings after visits to schools over the past year, including Azabu Kindergarten in Tokyo in June and Gakushuin Girls’ Senior High School, where their daughter Princess Aiko studies, in November.
The official translation of the emperor’s poem, provided by the Imperial Household Agency, is as follows:
When I hear the cheerful voices of children
Resounding through their classrooms
I hope from the bottom of my heart
They have a bright and beautiful future.
In her poem, the 56-year-old empress described her sadness at the damage caused by natural disasters in the country but also how she has been encouraged to see young people helping out with recovery efforts.
The imperial couple visited the city of Asakura in Fukuoka Prefecture in 2018 after it was devastated by torrential rain in the previous year.
In December last year, the two also visited Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture, and Motomiya, Fukushima Prefecture, which were hit hard by powerful Typhoon Hagibis in October.
The official translation of the empress’ poem is as follows:
The power of youth
To those who strive
To rise up from the calamity they suffer.
The imperial couple’s poems as well as works composed by other members of the imperial family, and 10 pieces chosen from more than 15,000 entries from the public, were recited in the traditional style at the reading.
Waka poetry was developed by the court aristocracy in the sixth century, and tanka poems, which are typically synonymous with waka, consist of 31 syllables in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern.
The theme for next year’s New Year’s poetry reading is based around the Chinese character jitsu, the agency said.