Japan’s emperor pens poem to reflect on warm welcome during visits

Japanese Emperor Naruhito, in a poem recited at the annual Imperial New Year’s Poetry Reading on Friday, reflected fondly on the warm welcome he and his wife Empress Masako have always received during official visits across Japan.

Having visited all 47 of Japan’s prefectures, including when he was crown prince, the poem describes the emperor’s feeling of peace upon seeing the smiles of local people at each place he traveled to, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

The emperor acceded to the throne after his father, former Emperor Akihito, abdicated on April 30, 2019.

The ceremony at the Imperial Palace was also attended by the empress, Crown Prince Fumihito and his wife Princess Kiko, and members of the general public whose poems were selected.

The theme of this year’s poems at the reading was “wa,” which primarily means “peace” and “harmony.”

The official translation of the poem written by the emperor and provided by the agency reads as follows:

Seeing the smiles of the people

I meet during my many journeys

Throughout the country

Fills my heart with peace

Empress Masako’s poem expressed the warm feelings evoked by the graduation composition of their 22-year-old daughter, Princess Aiko, whose deep desire for peace was stirred after her first visit to Hiroshima during her third year in junior high school.

The official translation of the empress’s poem reads as follows:

How moved I was to read

My daughter’s deep feelings for peace

After her first visit

To Hiroshima

Princess Aiko, who entered the Department of Japanese Language and Literature at Gakushuin University’s Faculty of Letters in April 2020, used her Waka poem to convey her fascination with the classical form of poetry.

The official translation of the princess’s poem reads as follows:

Surviving centuries of hardship

The words of Waka poems

Touch my heart today

The poems, as well as compositions by other imperial family members and 10 pieces chosen from among 15,270 entries submitted by the public, were recited in the traditional style at the reading.

Waka poetry was developed by the court aristocracy in ancient Japan. A “tanka” poem, the most common form of waka, consists of 31 syllables in a pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.