On 12 January, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko along with other members of the Japanese Imperial family introduced their own compositions at the New Year Poetry Reading ceremony held at the Imperial Palace.
The theme for 2018 was “GO” or (Words). The royals read their own waka, or poetry to those assembled.
Their Majesties take a walk through the Imperial Palace gardens each day as part of their daily routine. On Sundays, they hike to observe the Ninomaru and Honmaru gardens. In the Springtime kinran, or orchids bloom. The Emperor recalls seeing them on his walks. these are ‘woodland orchids, with small yellow flowers.’ This blossom was the inspiration behind The Emperor’s poem. It blooms in April to May.
Here is Emperor Akihito’s poem:
In the garden
Conversing with each other
On our morning walk
We come across in the woods
Blossoms of kinran* blooming.
Ashita no sono wo
Hayashi no naka ni
Kinran no saku
The piece written by the Empress reflects on the years of diligent duty The Emperor has given to his country and people. He has devoted his life as a “symbol of the state.” He has fulfilled his heavy responsibilities “quietly” and Empress Michiko’s poem shows how she perceives the Emperor whilst standing in the sunlight of Spring. The Emperor will abdicate the throne next year.
His Majesty first broke the unprecedented news that he wished to abdicate the throne two years ago in a speech to his people. No emperor has abdicated in Japan for 200 years. the government had to come up with a plan to smoothly allow him to vacate the throne.
Here is the poem by Empress Michiko:
On Your shoulders
Pours the early spring sunlight
Softly and gently
O, such a heavy burden
You bore, saying so little.
Omoki wo oishi
Kimi ga kata ni
Soshun no hizashi