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Culture, No.33  Jun. 5, 2016

A Sardine-Shaped Cloud

The prize-giving ceremony for the 17th Haiku International Association Haiku Contest was held at the Arcadia Ichigaya Hotel in Tokyo on 5 December 2015. The prizewinning works and judges’ summations here follow, along with an extract of the speech given at the ceremony by the haiku enthusiast Radu Şerban, Ambassador of Romania to Japan.


Haiku International Association President Arima Akito delivers his welcome address.

Haiku International Association President Arima Akito delivers his welcome address.

Haiku International Association members from Japan and abroad submitted a total of 808 entries for consideration in the 2015 Haiku Contest. Many of the haiku included such words as “Showa,” “atomic bomb monument,” “August 15,” “end of the war” and “defeat in war,” with 2015 having marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

In a welcome speech prior to the announcement of the prizewinning works, Haiku International Association President Arima Akito said, “I am delighted that wherever we go all over the world, we encounter an increasing number of foreigners, not only Japanese, speaking about haiku. In recent years, terrorism has been a very serious international issue. In relation to this, I sincerely hope that haiku enthusiasts who visit foreign countries will talk with people in those countries and deepen their exchanges. I pray that the world will become more quiet and peaceful.”

These comments represent a crystallization of the essence of haiku — the pursuit of peace — that is often emphasized by Arima, who is a leading figure in the contemporary Japanese haiku community.

The Prizewinners

Haiku International Association Award:

Little by little
A sardine-shaped cloud
Slowly moves the sky

Furuya Ayao (Tokyo)


The key aspect of this haiku is the sardine-shaped cloud. The haiku describes a sardine-shaped cloud floating grandly in the sky. Looking at it made the poet feel as if the cloud were moving the sky. The beginning phrase “little by little” represents the entire dynamic movement of the poem.


Haiku International Association Award:

In the heat of late summer
Many things to hand down
from generation to generation

Kunisawa Rinpu (Kanagawa Pref.)


There were many events this year as well. The poet looked back on these many events in the unforgiving heat of late summer. The important point was that the poet expressed everything in the “heat of late summer.” The poet’s thinking about the passage of the season on the Chinese calendar and the expression of his lingering passion for summer events at the same time caused many judges to empathize.


Association of Haiku Poets Award:

A train pulls away
In a withered field
on the border

Sakai Junko (Tokyo)


The “withered field” in the poem expresses an image of a border and boundary. There is no change in the border throughout the year, but the image of a “withered field” and a train’s pulling away expresses the border as some kind of imagined landscape and change. This poem can be interpreted differently by different readers, but change is the key to appreciating the poem.


Gendai Haiku Association Award:

It looks just like
Venus is going to appear
from the rose gate

Okanishi Nobue (Chiba Pref.)


This is a stylish poem. Gendai Haiku Association President Miyasaka Shizuo, the judge, highly evaluated the image of the poet himself appearing.


Association of Japanese Classical Haiku Award:

A simple diet
is luxury
Eating a dried sardine

Waba Yusura (Tokyo)


The 808 haiku poems entered included many related to the 70th anniversary of the end of war. There were a great number of poems that described the various emotions people felt during this milestone year. This poem is outstanding. The phrase “A simple diet is luxury” expresses the punchy atmosphere of the Showa era like a subtle, delicate flavor.


Nikkei Award:

Feeling the sadness
of my fingertip drying
Winter has come

Okamoto Kiyoshi (Hokkaido)


This poem expresses the sense of experiencing the arrival of an unforgiving winter, and makes you feel sad.


Japan Times Award:

A summer cap
Blown by a dose
of high wind

Fujino Naoyuki (Miyagi Pref.)


A dose means radiation. The poem describes the act of living in the present. “A summer cap” represents the social conditions and the poet’s state of mind after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011.


Foreign section

Cherry blossom rain
Just a few heartbeats
From the ground

RaV (Poland)


Comment from the judge: “It is common for people to feel a new breath of life from spring rain in both Japan and Europe. Haiku now exists in the world as the simplest form for sharing impressive feelings.”


Old clock
Run by finger
Stopped time

Adam Augustin (Poland)


Comment from the judge: “A clock that no longer works is not just an antique ornament, but was reborn as a device that works on the haiku poet’s imagination.”


Black swan
Water drops
Jewel the neck

Owen Bullock (Australia)


Comment from the judge: “A black swan is floating in the lake, with water drops around its neck shining just like a jewel and a necklace. I can clearly see water drops glistening on the black wings and scattered around the swan. I can also see the wings of the black swan shining black.”


Dying oak
By the curator’s home
Limbs akimbo

Ernest J Berry (New Zealand)


Comment from the judge: “The English word ‘akimbo’ means putting both hands on the hips. It is not perfectly translated by the Japanese word niodachi (to stand firm with your feet a little apart), but it is not Japanese, and the English version of the poem is very good. An oak tree looks just like a person bending backward with his hands on his hips, and you cannot see the humor of the image unless you read the English version of the haiku poem. The humor of English haiku. A curator is not just a library or museum director, but a highly responsible specialist with expertise in gathering materials. I interpreted this haiku poem as describing the humor of a curator bending backwards akimbo, that is, with his hands on his hips.”


Note: The Haiku International Association (HIA) was established in 1989 with the support of the Association of Haiku Poets, the Gendai Haiku Association and the Association of Japanese Classical Haiku. The HIA serves as the gateway to haiku exchange both in Japan and abroad.


Translated from an original article in Japanese written for Discuss Japan. [November 201