Web Japan > Kids Web Japan > Archives > Monthly News > Nakao

February 2000

High School Poet Recieves Imperial Honor for Second Year

A high school student from Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, became the only third person in history whose poem was read before the Emperor and the Empress for the second straight year in the New Year poetry reading cremony, held annually at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Hiroaki Nakao, 16, made the headlines last year as the youngest tanka poet in postwar Japan to be chosen for the annual New Year event. A tanka is a 31-syllable short poem consisting of five lines in the pattern of 5-7-5-7-7, the dominant form of classical Japanese poetry dating back to the seventh century.

"I never dreamed of having this honor for two years in a row," said Nakao with a broad smile. "I am already thinking of writing a poem for next year's event."

The theme for this year's New Year poetry-reading ceremony was toki, or time. Along with the poems written by Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, and other Imperial family members, 10 poems were selected for recital from a total of 23,122 entries from the public, according to the Imperial Household Agency. The public contributions included over 450 poems from elementary and middle school students apparently encouraged by Nakao's feat last year, agency officials said.

Nakao's latest poem is as follows.

Yubisaki ni
  daken no omosa
Shopan no "Kakumei"
  hiku toki semaru

I already feel the weight
of the piano keys
on my fingertips
as my time approaches
to play Chopin's Revolutionary Etude

Nakao has been playing piano since the age of 3, and his poem this year was about the tense and nervous feeling he had moments before he was called up to play a piece by Frederic Chopin. "I decided to write about music after the Empress encouraged me to keep practicing piano during our conversation at last year's ceremony," he said.

Informed that so many children contributed their poems to this year's event, Nakao said he would be glad if he could help revive interest in tanka, which he regards as one of Japan's cultural treasures.

Next year's theme, selected by the Emperor himself, is kusa, or grassy plants. While Nakao is determined to have another try at the selection, he has a problem to deal with. "I have to think hard about how to make time for poem writing and other hobbies because studying for university entrance exams is taking up much of my time," he said.

Photo: Two time selected poet Nakao is all smiles at a press conference following the ceremony. (Jiji)