The Japanese Ambassador to the UK, Mr Hayashi Hajime, and representatives from the Embassy of Japan visited Eton College on Monday 27 February to view the College’s exhibition of the Nijūichidaishū: Japan’s Imperial Waka Poetry Anthology.

Originally intended to mark 100 years since Eton was visited by the Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito (later Emperor Showa) in 1921, the Nijūichidaishū exhibition is on display in Eton College’s Verey Gallery. It is currently open to the public for free on Sunday afternoons and by appointment, Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm.

During today’s visit, the Japanese Ambassador took a tour of Eton College similar to that completed by Crown Prince Hirohito (later Emperor Showa) 100 years ago. Afterwards, Mr Hajime was joined at the exhibition by boys from Eton College, including Japanese students who read poetry, and by the exhibition’s curator Dr Monika Hinkel, lecturer in the Arts of Japan at SOAS, University of London.

Dr. Hinkel said, “It was such an honour and a pleasure to guide His Excellency Ambassador Hayashi and his wife around the Nijūichidaishū special exhibition at the Verey Gallery of Eton College.”

The exhibition features Japanese courtly culture and waka poetry, with objects from the Eton College Collections and loans from the Ashmolean and British Museums. It centres on a Japanese object in the Eton College Collections: a lacquer box containing a copy of the Nijūichidaishū (‘Collections of Twenty-one Reigns or Eras’). It is an anthology of poetry, called waka, compiled by Imperial command between the 10th and 15th centuries. This manuscript copy of the anthology was given to Eton in 1925 by the Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito (later Emperor Showa) after his visit to Eton in 1921.

Lord Waldegrave of North Hill, Provost of Eton, said, “Eton was honoured to receive His Excellency Ambassador Hayashi at Eton, and delighted to show him the Exhibition in our Verey Gallery celebrating the visit of Crown Prince Hirohito to Eton a century ago, including the gift the future Emperor made to Eton at that time.”

Catrina Brizzi, College Collections, added that, “The object which inspired the exhibition and gave it its name, The Nijūichidaishū, came to Eton College following an important visit so it seems fitting to mark 100 years since the Crown Prince’s time in Eton by retracing his steps with representatives from the Japanese Embassy. I feel very honoured to have been involved in such an event.”

The exhibition closes on 16 April 2023.