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Imperial family honors astronauts, quake survivors with poems

January 14, 1997

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s imperial family honored an astronaut’s journey and a city’s recovery from an earthquake in poems read Tuesday at an annual New Year’s ceremony.

The ceremony is part of palace tradition dating back about 700 years. Since 1874, members of the public have been invited to join the imperial family in reading poems. This year, 10 people were selected from nearly 20,000 entrants.

Empress Michiko, wearing a long white dress, read a poem about Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who flew on the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour last year.

As translated by the Imperial Household Agency, the poem reads:

``It was a blue planet,

Distinct in darkness,

Bearing signs of life.

So describing the earth from afar

The astronaut has returned.″

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