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Japan's Emperor, Empress introduce New Year poems in ceremony delayed by pandemic

The New Year's poetry reading ceremony is held at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on March 26, 2021, with Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako and other members of the Imperial Family in attendance. (Mainichi/Junichi Sasaki)

TOKYO -- The New Year's poetry reading ceremony, delayed this year due to the spread of the coronavirus, was carried out at the Imperial Palace in Japan's capital on March 26.

    The theme of the readings this year was "fruit." At the ceremony, poems by Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako along with those by other members of the Imperial Family and 10 pieces selected from among 13,657 submissions from the general public were read out in a traditional voice.

    The number of participants invited to the ceremony was significantly reduced this year as a precaution against the coronavirus. Participants including the Emperor and Empress wore masks, while the reciter of the program donned a face shield, and acrylic screens were also set up. One person whose poem was selected participated online, with a monitor showing their face set up in the place where they were due to sit.

    Below are the poems composed by Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, as provided by the Imperial Household Agency.

    --

    His Majesty the Emperor:

    I sincerely pray that

    The hope and efforts of the people

    Bear beautiful fruit

    Leading us to peaceful days

    --

    (Background of the poem)

    Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress are deeply saddened to have learned that the spread of COVID-19 last year has claimed many lives all over the world, and that people are still being confronted with enormous challenges.

    Under these circumstances, wishing to further understand the situation of and turn their thoughts to the many people who are faced with these difficulties, Their Majesties have listened to experts in various fields and to those actually involved in handling the situation.

    His Majesty the Emperor composed this poem, sincerely praying that the peoples' hopes and the efforts of those working together to overcome the difficulties bear fruit and thus the pandemic will come to an end.

    --

    Her Majesty the Empress:

    As I stand in the garden

    Yearning for

    The end of the infection's spread,

    The fruit of the ume

    Are a hopeful green

    --

    (Background of the poem)

    Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress have been hoping earnestly for the containment of the infection ever since the COVID-19 breakout. Last May, during the time when the state of emergency was declared, Her Majesty the Empress Masako was taking a walk in the Akasaka Palace grounds. As she paused by the Japanese apricot (ume) trees, she found that the fruits had grown and become fresh green. Even though the daily lives of people had changed greatly in many ways by the spread of the infection, the Japanese apricot trees had bloomed and were bearing fruit just as in years before. Her Majesty was moved by the unswerving vitality of the workings of nature.

    This waka poem was composed to express Her Majesty's impression at that time.

    (Japanese original by Takeshi Wada, City News Department)

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