Photo/IllutrationEmperor Akihito and Empress Michiko with other members of the imperial family (Provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

Emperor Akihito's thoughts turned to his visits to Vietnam and Thailand, among other things, and Empress Michiko reminisced about her conversations with southern islanders of Japan in "waka" poems the couple composed.

The eight 31-syllable poems were released by the Imperial Household Agency. Five were by Akihito, 84, and three by Michiko, 83.

The couple composed them last year and selected the eight for New Year's release.

In one, the emperor expressed his admiration for the Vietnamese people’s resilience in the face of various wars and conflicts even after World War II had finished and the country's rise to prosperity. In another, he depicted bidding farewell to Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej while recalling his exchanges with the monarch over half a century.

The emperor and empress visited Vietnam and Thailand between February and March.

The emperor’s five poems are as follows:

The 68th National Arbor Day Festival


Non-pollen Japanese cedar

Here have I planted

Hoping no one will suffer

From pollen any longer.

At the Opening Ceremony of the 72nd National Sports Festival

The stadium lawn

Its green vivid and splendid

Here in Ehime

National Sports Festival

As the athletes come marching in.

The 37th Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea

Japanese abalone

And Japanese littleneck

Handing them the fry

I think of the fishermen

Of their lives and livelihoods.

Visiting Vietnam

How did they live through

Those years of fighting and war

My thoughts went out to them

As we visited this land

The country of Vietnam.

Visiting Thailand to pay respects to the late king

There lies the late king

I sit before his coffin

As I remember

The many days and years

Of our warm and close friendship.

The empress composed "Name" after she realized in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake there is a district called Nobiru in Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, a coastal city battered by towering tsunami generated by the magnitude-9.0 temblor. Nobiru is also the name of a familiar plant the empress often picks in the gardens of the Imperial Palace.

The empress also described cherished memories of exchanges with inhabitants of the islands of Kuchinoerabujima, Yakushima, Okinoerabujima and Yoronjima in southern Kagoshima Prefecture in November. The empress’ three poems are as follows:


“My father’s land”

Speaking thus of Japan

Here these people live

In this faraway Vietnam

Where we have come to visit.

After World War II, Japanese soldiers who had stayed on in Vietnam were forced to return to Japan without their Vietnamese wives and children.


“Nobiru” in the news

Plant’s name dear and familiar

’Tis also a name

Of a disaster-stricken area

Deeply etched in my mind.

Islands in the south

We have come far

To spend the time together

With the islanders

How we treasure these three days

Both His Majesty and I.