Courtesan Hanaogi of Ogi-ya by Chokosai Eisho, Now & Zen ukiyo-e detail
Japanese poets first encountered Chinese Poetry when it was at its peak in the Tang Dynasty. It took them several hundred years to digest the foreign impact, make it a part of their culture and merge it with their literary tradition in their mother tongue, and begin to develop the diversity of their native poetry. For example, in the Tale of Genji both kinds of poetry are frequently mentioned.
A new trend came in the middle of the 19th century. Since then the major forms of Japanese poetry have been tanka (new name for waka), haiku and shi.
In Japan during the ancient times, it was a custom between two writers to exchange waka instead of letters in prose. In particular, it was common between lovers. Soon after in Japan, making and reciting waka became a part of aristocratic culture.
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