New Year’s Poetry Reading
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.