New Year's Poetry Reading, Last in Heisei Era, Held


Tokyo, Jan. 16 (Jiji Press)--The "utakai hajime" New Year's ceremony to read "waka" Japanese poems, the last such event during Japan's Heisei era, was held at the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo on Wednesday morning.

With "hikari," or light, chosen as the theme for this year's ceremony, poems created by Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and other Imperial Family members, as well as selected works by some members of the general public, were recited in a special intonation according to ancient ritual.

This will likely mark the last time for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to participate in the New Year's poetry reading ceremony, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

The English version of a piece composed by Emperor Akihito reads: "These sunflowers grown / From seeds presented to us / How tall they now are / Their leaves spreading out widely / In the early summer light."

At a memorial ceremony held in Kobe in 2005 to mark the 10th anniversary of the strong January 1995 earthquake that devastated the western Japan city and surrounding areas, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were given sunflower seeds from a girl representing bereaved relatives of victims of the disaster.

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