TOKYO -- The first New Year's poetry reading ceremony of the Reiwa era, which began with the imperial succession in May 2019, was carried out at the Imperial Palace in Japan's capital on Jan. 16.
On the theme of "nozomi" (hope), tanka poems penned by Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako and other members of the Imperial Household, as well as 10 pieces selected from 15,324 public submissions, were read aloud in a traditional manner for the annual rite. Empress Masako attended the ceremony for the first time in 17 years.
(Japanese original by Tomofumi Inagaki, City News Department)
Below are the poems composed by Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako:
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.
(By Emperor Naruhito)
-- Background of the poem
Since their time as Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress have often visited schools and institutions for children. In June of 2019, Their Majesties visited Azabu Kindergarten in Minato Ward, Tokyo, and enjoyed meeting the lively children at play. Also, in November, Their Majesties visited the school festival of Gakushuin Girls' Junior and Senior High School where their daughter Her Imperial Highness Princess Aiko studies, and relished watching the cheerful activities of junior and senior high school students. His Majesty the Emperor composed this poem, expressing his earnest hope for the children's bright future, a hope that he has every time he meets children on such occasions.
The power of youth
To those who strive
To rise up from the calamity they suffer.
(By Empress Masako)
-- Background of the poem
Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress visit disaster affected regions almost every year to express their heartfelt sympathy and encourage the disaster victims in person. In 2018, Their Majesties visited and comforted the people in the city of Asakura in Fukuoka Prefecture which was devastated by torrential rain in the previous year. In December of 2019 they visited and comforted the residents of Marumori in Miyagi Prefecture and Motomiya in Fukushima Prefecture which were affected by typhoon Hagibis and other natural calamities in October. This waka poem was composed to describe Her Majesty's feeling that though she is saddened by the damage caused by natural disasters, she is always encouraged to find young people such as high school students gathering at disaster-hit areas to work as dedicated volunteers cleaning, restoring, and tidying up the site, thus heartening the disaster victims.