Japan taps ex-Europe chief as haiku diplomat


TOKYO: Japan has appointed a new ambassador for “haiku”, picking Herman Van Rompuy, a man used to the sometimes-prosaic world of European politics, to perform its poetry diplomacy.

Haiku is a form of Japanese verse dating back centuries, which traditionally contains 17 syllables — or, more accurately, morae — which must come in a 5-7-5 pattern.

It normally makes use of juxtaposition and should contain a reference to the season. Like most forms of Japanese poetry, it does not rhyme.

When he was not dealing with high-octane issues like the eurozone debt crisis of 2011 as then president of the European Council, former Belgian prime minister Van Rompuy was known to devote his time to haiku.

He has published several books of his own composition, and would occasionally recite haiku at diplomatic functions and before the international press.

He met Tuesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and promised as an artist he would do his part to boost EU-Japan relations, according to a Japanese government statement.

“As a haiku poet and a friend of Japan, I hope to continue to do my part to enhance Japan-EU relations,” he told Abe, according to the statement in Japanese.

The role will involve promoting an exchange programme among aficionados of the verse in Japan and Europe.

Matsuyama city, a southwestern Japanese municipality regarded as a birth place of modern haiku, named Van Rompuy an honorary citizen in 2013.

Japan often enthusiastically embraces foreign figures who profess a love of aspects of its culture.



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