Emperor Akihito urged the people of Japan to help those affected by the March 2011 disasters and together tackle challenges in the reconstruction efforts in his New Year’s message on Tuesday, while expressing hope for the people’s happiness.
“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 79-year-old emperor said in his “New Year Thoughts 2013” released by the Imperial Household Agency.
Looking to the aftermath of the nuclear crisis following the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami, Emperor Akihito expressed his sympathy for local residents who were displaced from their homes as a result of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
“My heart goes out to the afflicted people,” the emperor said, referring to those who cannot return to their homes due to radioactive contamination and those who are forced to suffer the cold harsh winter again in temporary shelters.
The emperor expressed hope that the nation will draw from the lessons of the 2011 disasters.
“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 towards assuring safety and security in the lives of the people,” the emperor said.
On the occasion of his 79th birthday in December, the emperor said at a press conference, “I would like to maintain the status quo for the time being,” touching on the possibility of reducing his public duties out of consideration for his age and health. He will be turning 80 in December this year.
Agency officials said Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, being very sympathetic to the plight of the people in disaster-stricken areas, are considering attending again a government-sponsored memorial ceremony as they did last year.
The emperor and empress received New Year’s greetings on Tuesday from other imperial family members, lawmakers and foreign ambassadors.
Visitors to the Imperial Palace included Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, heads of the Diet’s two chambers and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
“At the beginning of the year, I wish for the prosperity of the nation and happiness of the people,” the emperor said.
The agency also released several Japanese “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 the temporary housing in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, which was one of the three hardest-hit areas by the earthquake-tsunami disaster.
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 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 underwent a successful operation and was discharged from the hospital 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 another poem, the emperor recounted his trip to Britain in May to attend the celebration for Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee. During his visit, he recalled how he attended the queen’s coronation in 1953 as a 19-year-old crown prince.
On being invited to the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
‘Twas here in my youth
I mingled with people
From many countries
With fondness I remember
The coronation of the Queen.
In one of her three poems, Empress Michiko also expressed her concern for the disaster-hit victims as she recalled the visits she and the emperor made this year to the disaster-stricken areas in Miyagi, Fukushima and Nagano prefectures.
Rising once again
The villagers in the north
Embracing the memory
Of everything lost and gone —
Images of what used to be.