New Year’s Waka Poetry Reading Ceremony

  January 17, 2009 at 12:16 am by

On 15 January the annual New Year’s waka poetry reading ceremony (utakai hajime) took place at the Imperial Palace in the presence of Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito, and other members of the Imperial family. Although Crown Princess Masako, who has been suffering from adjustment disorder, submitted a poem, she did not attend.

Waka is an ancient form of poetry. The poems have five lines consisting of 31 syllables in the sequence 5-7-5-7-7. For the New Year’s ceremony, a theme is chosen every year and poems are submitted by members of the public as well as professional poets and members of the imperial family. This year, over 20,000 poems were submitted by the public. Members of the public whose poems are selected for reading are invited to attend the ceremony. The theme of the poems for this year was Life; previous themes have included Fire, the Moon, the Sky, Waves, and Happiness.

New Year's poetry reading

Click the image to see the photo at kunaicho.go.jp

The Emperor’s poem celebrated the coexistence of different creatures in the grounds of the Imperial Palace. The Empress’s poem described the short life of midges, which emerge from their eggs and live only a day or two before dying. Prince Naruhito’s poem described a flower living in the sand in the Middle East, which he had seen during a visit. Princess Masako, the devoted mother, wrote about her feelings when her daughter, Princess Aiko, attended her new school for the first time. The poems submitted by the imperial family may be found here (IHA website).

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