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2018.01.27 Empress Michiko’s Waka Poem Collection Published in Germany
In November 2017, German publishing firm Verlag Herder published the German translation of a collection of waka poetry by Japanese Empress Michiko, "Nur eine kleine Maulbeere. Aber sie wog schwer (Just a little mulberry, but weighing heavily)." The translation was rendered by Peter Pantzer, professor emeritus of the University of Bonn, alongside the poetry handwritten by calligrapher Hakko Ishitobi.
In the Imperial House of Japan, which serves in part to uphold the traditional culture of Japan, waka poetry is a basic educational subject together with calligraphy and manners and customs. Empress Michiko, when she became the first commoner to be chosen as the Crown Princess, was given the assignment to write "one poem a day for 100 days" from her poetry teacher during her pre-marriage "princess training." Since then, for almost 60 years, Empress Michiko has composed waka poems based on her various experiences, from public duty to child rearing. She has been highly praised as a contemporary poet, and her poems have been compiled in many waka books.

This is the first time that a collection of Empress Michiko’s waka poems has officially been translated into a foreign language. 50 waka poems in wide-ranging themes were selected for publishing. The translation process requires firstly an understanding of the meaning behind the poem, and secondly to be translated in a similar format to waka—a challenging task. To ensure accuracy, the German translations were translated back into Japanese and compared against the original poems. Also, in terms of conveying Japanese culture overseas, it's said that the fact that these poems were published in Germany is significant.

At the beginning of every January, the Utakai-hajime ceremony (first poetry recitation) is hosted by the Imperial Household Agency. Together with poems selected from the general public, the Imperial family members' poems will also be showcased. At this event, a theme is given in the form of a Chinese character, and for 2018, this character is "語" (pronounced "go"). Now that the official date of the Emperor’s abdication has been announced, we wonder what kind of poetry Empress Michiko will reveal.  

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