• Kyodo

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Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako expressed their hope for the end of the novel coronavirus pandemic in poems recited on their behalf Friday at the annual New Year Poetry Reading Ceremony, which was postponed for over two months due to the health crisis.

The 61-year-old emperor expressed sadness for the lives lost during the pandemic as well as for people struggling with hardships linked to the spread of the virus.

The annual event was held with measures to prevent the spread of infection, with participants required to wear face masks or shields. It was initially scheduled for Jan. 15, but was put off amid a resurgence of virus infections in Tokyo and its vicinity.

Acrylic partitions were set up in front of speakers on the stage as part of antivirus measures.

The theme of this year’s waka poems at the reading held at the Imperial Palace was the kanji character jitsu, which can mean “fruit.”

The official translation of the poem written by the emperor, provided by the Imperial Household Agency, is as follows:

I sincerely pray that
The hope and efforts of the people
Bear beautiful fruit
Leading us to peaceful days

His wife Empress Masako also reflected on the pandemic in her poem, expressing her earnest hope for the containment of the virus.

The official translation of the empress’ poem is as follows:

As I stand in the garden
Yearning for
The end of the infection’s spread,
The fruit of the ume (Japanese apricot)
Are a hopeful green

In her poem, the 57-year-old empress described the vitality of nature she experienced in May last year, as she saw fruits on Japanese apricot trees that had grown and become green while walking in the Akasaka Estate during the first state of emergency declared over the virus.

The couple’s poems, as well as works composed by other members of the imperial family and 10 pieces chosen from 13,657 entries submitted by the public, were recited at the reading ceremony in the traditional style.

One of the 10 chosen poets attended the event online from Fukui Prefecture in central Japan.

Waka poetry was developed by the court aristocracy in the sixth century. A tanka poem, which is 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 will be mado (window), the agency said.

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