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Speech made by Ambassador Orita on the occasion of a public seminar on Tanka at York St. John College

16 October 2003

Professor Willcocks, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you, Professor Willcocks for your kind words of introduction. I am delighted to be here with you. How nice it is to hear lectures given by Dr McAulley and Mr Gilliver on "Tanka" poems and explore their beauty and grace at this Fountains Lecture Theatre in this modern building of York St John College. I have heard that this building has just been completed, and I want to congratulate for the extremely beautiful achievements.

This Public Seminar is a part of "Japan Day", jointly organized by York St John College, the National Railway Museum, york-england.com and the Embassy of Japan. I like to thank all the people who have made tremendous efforts in making this event possible. And my special gratitude goes to Professor Willcocks and Dr Nakamura of this College.

Like Great Britain, literature plays a very important role in Japanese culture. And poetry is an effective literary form in expressing delicate and sometimes passionate feelings of human mind. We have a long history of traditional poetry. The first major collection of poetry was "Man'youshuu". The poems were composed in 6th and 7th centuries. "Man'youshuu" contains verses, chiefly 31 syllable Waka poems. Since then, we have basically kept this traditional literary form. At present time, on the basis of this tradition, Tanka poems offer a big number of even ordinary Japanese people, young and old, a wonderful artistic way of express themselves. Why don't you try to write a Tanka perhaps in English? This kind of exercise will add something new and creative in your mind.

Quite recently, I saw in London a wonderful performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet in Japanese language with English surtitle, directed by Jonathan Kent, acted by traditional Kyogen actors, using the technique of Kabuki and Noh theatres. It was a big success! People were enchanted. By learning culture of another country, you will discover something new to express yourself, widen your scope of experiences and enrich yourself.

I am sure that you will find today's lectures by Dr McAulley and Mr Gilliver most informative interesting and stimulating.

Lastly, I like to congratulate Kate (Robinson) & Victoria (Smith) for being selected as poem readers for the lecture. I wish all the best to you!

Thank you.

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