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Final New Year poetry reading ceremony of Heisei era held at Imperial Palace

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko and other members of the Imperial Family attend the New Year poetry reading ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Jan. 16, 2019. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- The last New Year's poetry reading ceremony for the Heisei era, which will end with the planned Imperial succession in May, was carried out at the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo on Jan. 16.

On the theme of "hikari" (light), tanka poems created by Their Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko and other members of the Imperial Household, as well as 10 pieces selected from 21,971 public submissions, were read aloud in a traditional manner for the annual rite.

Both of Their Majesties, who attended the ceremony for the last time, composed tanka about flowers in the garden of their Imperial Residence.

His Majesty wrote about the sunflowers that he plants each year. The flowers came from the seeds of "Haruka no Himawari" (Haruka's sunflowers), which are associated with a girl of the same name who perished in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. They are grown across Japan as a symbol of recovery from the disaster. Emperor Akihito was given the seeds by a girl representing people who lost their family members in the disaster on Jan. 17, 2005, when he attended a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the temblor.

Her Majesty, meanwhile, wrote of her experience of feeling encouragement to carry on with her life from the sight of beautiful roses in the twilight.

Crown Prince Naruhito wrote a poem about climbing Mount Kinpu, which straddles Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures in central Japan, when he was a first-year student in high school. He felt as if he was guided by occasional rays of sunlight coming through clouds.

The piece by Crown Princess Masako was about silver birch trees shining in morning sunlight in the garden of the Togu Palace, and her giving thought to the care given to the plants when Their Majesties used to live there. She expressed her thanks for the days she was able to spend admiring the beautiful garden.

According to the Imperial Household Agency, the themes of the New Year poetry ceremony was decided by Emperor Akihito based on the opinions of judges. In previous years, the theme for the following year was also announced at the ceremony. However, due to the forthcoming Imperial succession this year, the next theme will be announced after the Crown Prince ascends to the throne on May 1.

(Japanese original by Nao Yamada, City News Department)

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