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Soothing sounds of ‘waka’ poetry emanate from Imperial Palace

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When the New Year’s holiday spirit has finally receded in mid-January and people suddenly find themselves busy again, an annual ceremony called Utakai Hajime, or New Year Poetry Reading, is held at the Imperial Palace.

Aired live from the palace, the ceremony is most noted for the slow and distinctive melody to which the “waka” Japanese poems are recited.

And who are those sonorous reciters?

“They are all non-regular appointees, commissioned by the Imperial Household Agency,” said Kintake Sonoike, 57, one of the “hikoshoyaku” palace retainers tasked with declaiming the poems.

By profession, Sonoike is a botanist specializing in........

© The Asahi Shimbun