Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, along with other members of the imperial family, welcomed 2018 with a New Year's ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. 

This will be the last full year for the 84-year-old emperor to carry out his duties as the symbol of the state, as he is set to abdicate in April 2019.

The Imperial Household Agency also released for New Year's Day several 31-syllable "waka" poems written in 2017 by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

One of the emperor's poems described the couple's visit to Vietnam in February and March:

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.

Meanwhile, the empress' poem on areas affected by the devastating March 2011 earthquake in northeastern Japan reads:

"Nobiru" in the news
Plant's name dear and familiar
'Tis also a name
Of a disaster-stricken area
Deeply etched in my mind.