Friday, January 13, 2012

Utakai Hajime

Utakai Hajime (歌会始, Imperial New Year's Poetry Reading) was held at the hall named Matsu-no-Ma(松の間) of the Imperial Palace on January 12. The reading of traditional tanka poetry is convened by the Emperor.  This year's theme was "kishi(岸, shore)" and next year's theme is "ritsu(立)".

The hall is very quiet. A facilitator conducts this ceremony without saying a word. Music is not played. Attendees including the imperial family members, poem selectors, the writers of the selected poems and ambassadors from various countries don't even clap their hands. This ceremony includes only chants of traditional tanka poems.

All of poems are chanted by members of the former peerage. After one of the members reads out  writer's name and chants his/her poem, the other five members chant the poem (the Empress's poem twice and the Emperor's poem three times)in a special intonation.


At first, the 10 poems that was chosen from more than 18,830 entries from the public were chanted in ascending order of writers' ages. The youngest writer's poem was read first.

The writers of the poems include a 17-year-old high school girl, a 81-year-old man who used to take the Joban Line(destroyed by the tsunami) train to work, an earthquake victim living in Fukushima, a man who removed land mines in Cambodia and a man whose son survived the tsunami during a business trip. They were invited to the ceremony.

Following that, the poems by one of selectors, a person invited by the Emperor, one of the imperial family members, the Crown Princess and the Crown Prince were chanted.

At last, the Empress's poem were chanted twice and the Emperor's poem were done three times.

Many applicants, most of the imperial family members thought of the seashores damaged by the tsunami on March 11th.

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