Ahead of his abdication next year, Empress Michiko reflected on the path her husband Emperor Akihito has followed in a poem recited Friday at the annual New Year Poetry Reading ceremony at the Imperial Palace.
This year’s theme for the waka (poems) was go, which means word in Japanese.
In her poem, the Empress described how the Emperor has devoted himself over the years to pursuing his life as symbol of the state, fulfilling his many responsibilities quietly.
The 84-year-old Emperor will be the first Japanese monarch to step down in more than 200 years. He hinted at his desire to abdicate in a rare video message aired in August 2016, citing his advanced age and weakening health.
The official translation of the Empress’ poem is as follows:
On Your shoulders
Pours the early spring sunlight
Softly and gently
O, such a heavy burden
You bore, saying so little.
The Imperial Couple’s poems as well as works composed by other members of the Imperial family and 10 pieces chosen from roughly 20,453 entries from the public were recited in the traditional style at the gathering.
The Emperor and the Empress, as well as Crown Prince Naruhito, Prince Akishino and his wife, Princess Kiko, were among those attending the traditional ceremony. Crown Princess Masako, who has been receiving treatment for a stress-induced illness, was absent.
In his poem, Emperor Akihito recalled seeing kinran (golden orchids) during his routine morning stroll with the Empress in the garden at Akasaka Palace. The Emperor first saw the flower in the western Tokyo suburb of Koganei, where he stayed soon after World War II.
The official translation of the Emperor’s poem is as follows:
In the garden
Conversing with each other
On our morning walk
We come across in the woods
Blossoms of kinran blooming.
The English translation of the two poems was provided by the Imperial Household Agency.
In their poems, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako expressed their thoughts about people affected by the March 2011 mega-quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan whom they met during their November visit to Miyagi Prefecture.
For the eldest granddaughter of the Emperor, Princess Mako, this was her last attendance as a reader, as she will be required by law to leave the Imperial family after her upcoming November marriage to a commoner. In her poem she depicted her 2016 visit to Paraguay and her exchanges with Japanese and people of Japanese descent in the country.
Waka were developed by the court aristocracy in the sixth century, and tanka, another type of poetry typically synonymous with waka, consists of 31 syllables in a pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.
The theme for next year’s New Year Poetry Reading is hikari, which means light, the agency said.