New Year’s Poetry Reading

On 16th January, the members of Imperial Family attended the Ceremony of the Utakai Hajime (Imperial New Year’s Poetry Reading) took place at Imperial Palace.

It became the last time for Their Majesties to attend the Ceremony of Utakai Hajime.

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

Text from Imperial Household Agency

Theme for the New Year’s Poetry Reading (2019) : HIKARI (LIGHT)

His Majesty the Emperor

These sunflowers grown
From seeds presented to us
How tall they now are
Their leaves spreading out widely
In the early summer light.

(Background of the poem)
Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress visited Hyogo Prefecture in 2005 to attend the Memorial Ceremony to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. On that occasion Their Majesties conversed with a girl representing the families of the deceased, who presented Them with some sunflower seeds called “Haruka’s Sunflowers.”* That year Their Majesties planted those seeds in the garden of the Imperial Residence, and ever since then, They have continued to grow those sunflowers every year, by planting the seeds taken after the flowering season. In this poem His Majesty describes how those sunflowers are thriving.

* “Haruka’s Sunflowers” are sunflowers which bloomed the summer following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake at the site of the home of Haruka Kato, a sixth grade girl who lost her life in the earthquake. The local people collected the seeds and distributed them widely as a symbol of remembrance and reconstruction.


Her Majesty the Empress

For a while longer
I resolve to live my life
Each garden rose
So serene and beautiful
In the waning light of dusk.

(Background of the poem)
Her Majesty the Empress has now reached a venerable age, which at times makes Her heart feel weary. One evening She noted that the roses in the rose garden of the Imperial Residence were blooming beautifully, each bloom standing out clearly and three-dimensionally in the serene light of dusk, a sight which gave Her a deep sense of peace. In this poem, Her Majesty reflects upon that moment of quiet joy and serenity when She resolved, for a while longer, to live out Her remaining days, treasuring each day as it comes.


His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince

Guided by the light
Breaking through the clouds,
I made my way up the ridges
Towards the peak of Mount Kinpu.

(Background of the poem)
His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince climbed Mount Kinpu, located on the boundary between Yamanashi and Nagano Prefectures, in July 1975 when he was in the first year of high school. On that day, it was cloudy but sometimes the sun shined through.
His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince composed this poem, recalling the impression he had when he made his way towards the peak of the mountain in such weather as if he were guided by the sunlight appearing from behind the clouds.


Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess

In the palace garden
Once cherished by our respected Majesty the Emperor
And my beloved mother-in-law the Empress,
Silver Birches glitter
Brightly in the morning sunlight.

(Background of the poem)
In the garden of The Crown Prince’s residence where Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress lived during Showa era, and where Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess now reside, there are silver birch trees, the symbol of Her Majesty the Empress, cherished by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress.
Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess composed this waka poem to describe the silver birch trees shining in the bright morning light, thankful for having been able to spend these twenty some years in the residence, appreciating the beautiful scenery of the garden.

Photo from Sankei1, 2 and Asahi


Filed under 未分類

5 responses to “New Year’s Poetry Reading

  1. Yuko

    Someone is missing from attending this event

  2. Yuko

    Someone is missing from attending this event

  3. Maguy

    Thank you for providing text and background for this year’s poetry reading.

  4. Cheshire

    Poignant and beautiful poems from Their Majesties. Not only do they reflect upon their subjects, A little girl’s sunflowers that bloom in her memory and peace in old age, but also on this being their last winter as Emperor and Empress and passing gently into retirement. I wish their Majesties all the best these remaining months and may have many more peaceful years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s