August 25, 2023
Vol. 27: FROM THE EDITOR
This month our special feature is on waka. The “wa” means Japan and the “ka” means poetry, and it refers to a tradition of Japanese poetry that has been handed down since the seventh century, when Japanese culture as we now know it first emerged. Waka has exerted massive influence on all kinds of Japanese culture, from the tea ceremony to ikebana and noh. Furthermore, while Japanese people might not always realize it, waka influences how they think, feel and perceive things in their daily lives. In other words, understanding the essence of waka is crucial to understanding Japan.
Kyoto’s Reizei family has played an important role in the history of waka, acting as custodian of the tradition over many generations from the 13th century to the present. The family residence is in Kyoto, and it is the only existing imperial court noble house in Japan. It is also designated an Important Cultural Property. For this special feature, we pay a visit to the Reizei family and ask about the importance and challenges of preserving traditional culture for future generations. And in doing so, we learn exactly what waka is all about.