New Year Poetry Reading Held at Imperial Palace

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
The utakai hajime New Year poetry reading is held at the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday morning.

The annual utakai hajime ceremony, a New Year poetry reading at the Imperial Palace, was held in the Matsu-no-Ma room of the palace in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Wednesday.

The theme for waka poems this year was “tomo” (friend). The event featured poems on the theme by the Emperor, the Empress, other members of the Imperial family and 10 people whose works were selected from 15,005 poems sent in, members of the panel that selected those poems, and poet Yukari Kojima, 66, who was invited to the event by the Emperor. The poems were recited in a melodious style true to tradition.

According to the Imperial Household Agency, the Emperor’s poem was about a remote meeting with members of a high school brass band during the National Cultural Festival in Wakayama Prefecture in 2021. The Emperor watched and listened to high school students speaking about the joy of making music with friends even though they had to take various measures against the novel coronavirus pandemic. The poem expresses the Emperor’s delight at meeting them and his wish that life will return to normal soon.

It has been 29½ years since the Empress, who turned 59 in December, married into the Imperial family. The Empress composed a poem about her deep feelings about having spent half of her life as a member of the Imperial family and her gratitude to friends who have warmly watched over her.

Princess Aiko, the only child of the Emperor and the Empress, composed a poem about how she felt nostalgic while walking in a garden of the Imperial Palace last autumn, as it brought her memories of walking from school with friends and stepping on autumn leaves on the ground. The princess did not attend the reading ceremony on Wednesday as she put priority on her academic work at university.

In the past, about 100 people were invited to the poetry reading each year, yet only five people were invited beginning in 2021 due to infection control measures. This time, the agency increased the number of invitees to 12 by improving the arrangement of participants in the venue.