BRUSSELS - EU president Herman Van Rompuy, a devotee of all things Japanese, welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday with a traditional "haiku" mini-poem.
"Once come May spring ushers in life everywhere; Laughing blossoms," Van Rompuy told Abe, who was wrapping up a six-country, nine-day Europe visit with a European Union summit.
Abe responded in kind, referring to a dinner hosted Tuesday by Van Rompuy at an ancient chateau.
"Lovely spring evening," he said through a Japanese intepreter. "How deeply do I appreciate the hospitality at an old castle."
Van Rompuy has been composing haikus, poems of delicacy and allusion based on 17 syllables in the strict Japanese style, for years.
"Between poetry and politics I do not see many links," Van Rompuy said at the 2010 launch of a book of his haikus. "A haiku-poet, in politics, cannot be extravagant, nor super-vain, nor extremist."
Van Rompuy met Abe against the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis and complex negotiations on a massive free trade agreement with Tokyo alongside a revamped Strategic Partnership accord.
Abe has been keen to stress Japan's new-found willingness to make a "proactive contribution to peace" as it faces up to the rising power of giant neighbour China.