Photo/IllutrationEmperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the center of the front row, along with other members of the imperial family (Provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

With his abdication as emperor just months away, Akihito, along with Empress Michiko, released their last "waka" poems of the Heisei Era to mark New Year on Jan. 1.

The couple have continued the tradition of releasing poems they composed in the past year since 1990. Akihito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne upon the death of his father, Emperor Showa, in 1989.

Akihito’s five “waka” poems centered on visits he made in 2018 to attend commemorative events or cheer up victims affected by a natural disaster.

Three poems composed by Michiko included one about her husband dating to the time when the couple moved to the Imperial Palace after he became emperor.

In years past since 1990, Akihito also released a statement that reflected for the new year.

But he discontinued the practice for 2017 due to his age. He turned 85 on Dec. 23.

Many of those statements contained references about victims of World War II and his strong desire for peace.

For example, Akihito said in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II: “In this pivotal year, looking back upon the past, remembering the victims of the war while at same time mindful of the toil and trouble of all those who labored to achieve today's prosperity, anew I pray for peace for all world.”

In 2006, his statement read: “We will never forget the people who lost their lives in the war and bear in mind that the Japan of today is built on the sacrifice made by those many people.”

The emperor also expressed his wishes that people affected by natural disasters would quickly be able to rebuild their lives.

In 1996, the year after the Great Hanshin Earthquake that killed more than 6,000 people struck, Akihito said, “I sincerely hope that the devastated area will be restored without delay and that the people may know some ease and comfort in their lives.”

Looking back on the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he said in his thoughts for 2012, “My heart also goes out to the people who regrettably can no longer live in the places they used to live because of the radioactive contamination caused by the nuclear plant accident.”

Akihito will abdicate on April 30, and his oldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will become emperor on May 1.

The emperor’s five poems are as follows:

The 69th National Arbor Day Festival

Become a forest

For disaster prevention

That was my wish

As I planted black pine trees

In the land of Fukushima.

At the Opening Ceremony of the 73rd National Sports Festival

Here in Fukui

The storm is fast approaching

At the stadium

Awaiting the opening

The people spread out and dance.

The 38th Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea

Remembering

My childhood days of long ago

When I kept this fish

The striped beakfish I release

Into the sea of Tosa.

Visiting Okinawa

So many people

Waving their paper lanterns

Gathered together

We waved our lanterns back

At night in Okinawa.

The Torrential Rains in Western Japan

As I watched

Images of turbid waters

On television

Surging through, destroying towns,

I mourned the loss of many lives.

***

The empress’s three poems are as follows:

Yonaguni Island

Fondly I recall

Our trip to Yonaguni

The westernmost isle

Where we were shown a huge marlin

And native horses as well.

Late Summer

Still in bloom I see

Some late blooming red clovers

Along the moat

There goes a state carriage

Its duty duly finished.

Moving House

I know I’ll recall

Even after we leave here

How light filled this garden

As Your Majesty stood there

Still youthful and radiant.

(Yasuhiko Shima contributed this article.)