Imperial New Year’s Poetry Reading

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On 13th January,  the members of Imperial Family attended the Ceremony of the Utakai Hajime (Imperial New Year’s Poetry Reading) took place at Imperial Palace. This is a ceremony to read a collection of poems on a common theme to a wider audience. This Year’s Theme was “Field (“No” in Japanese)”.

About Imperial New Year’s Poetry Reading (Imperial Household Agecy)

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Waka Poems by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress and Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess

Text from Imperial Household Agency

His Majesty the Emperor

To hear the sound
Of tree crickets singing
In the field of Nasu
We gathered together
How fondly I recall that night.

Kantan no
Naku ne kikanto
Nasu no no ni
Tsudoishi yoru wo
Natsukashimi omou

(Background of the poem)
In the summertime Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress spend a few days at the Imperial Villa in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture. In response to His Majesty’s wishes, an annual fauna and flora survey of the grounds of the Imperial Villa was carried out for two five-year periods, over a total of 10 years from 1997 to 2007, with the Tochigi Prefectural Museum playing a central role, and the results of the surveys were compiled in the form of two reports. In this poem His Majesty recalls how, near the Omei Pavilion* at night, He heard the explanation from the researchers and listened to the sound of the singing of the tree crickets, Oecanthus longicauda.

*Omei Pavilion, one of two pavilions on the grounds of the Nasu Imperial Villa, was built in celebration of the 1926 accession to the throne of Emperor Showa, the father of the present Emperor, as an offering from the civil and military officials throughout the country at the time.

Her Majesty the Empress

Picking field horsetails
Plucking wild rocamboles
Here we have lived
In the heart of the city
As if living in the field.

Tsukushi* tsumi
Nobiru* wo hikite
Sanagarani
No ni aru gotoku
Koko ni sumikoshi

(Background of the poem)
A wide variety of wild plants grow in the garden of the Imperial Residence, the residence of Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress. Here Their Majesties have enjoyed the fruit of nature offered by the changing seasons, such as looking for field horsetails, Equisetum arvense, in the spring, gathering ginkgo nuts*, Ginkgo biloba, in the autumn, sometimes inviting the Imperial Household staff to join Them. In this poem, Her Majesty looks back, full of deep emotion, on the life She has led at the Imperial Residence, where She has lived close to nature albeit right in the centre of the city, as if living in the field in the countryside.

*Tsukushi field horsetail Equisetum arvense
*Nobiru wild rocambole Allium macrostemon
*Ginnan ginkgo nuts Ginkgo biloba

His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince

Down through the shade of the rocks
Water-drops from the mountain grow into a river
Flowing through the plain

(Background of the poem)
In May of 2008, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince visited Koshu City in Yamanashi Prefecture to climb Mount Kasatori, where he had an opportunity to see the water conservation forest of the Tokyo Waterworks Bureau. There His Imperial Highness saw how each drop of water which trickles down from the mountain rocks grows into a stream which then becomes the source of the Tamagawa River. This poem reflects His Highness’s imagining of the destination of each of those drops.

Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess

As we three, parents and child, wander through the fields of Nasu,
I teach my daughter the names of the autumn flowers

(Background of the poem)
When Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess stay at the Nasu Imperial Villa in summer, they enjoy walking around the estate from time to time. Last summer, they had many occasions to take a walk in the estate together with Her Imperial Highness Princess Aiko, who is now a ninth grader. This poem was composed to describe the joy of teaching Princess Aiko the names of blooming autumn flowers, such as purple scabious, golden lace, and grass-of-Parnassus, when the three strolled around Okinagaoka, a site in the estate.

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Photo from Asahi and Sankei


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