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Haiku conventions sharing A-bomb victims' plight to end in Kyoto after more than 50 years

A publication commemorating 50 years of submissions to the A-Bomb Day Memorial Haiku Meeting, right, is seen together with later publications.

KYOTO -- The A-Bomb Day Memorial Haiku Meeting, an annual gathering calling for a nuclear-free world and peace through haiku, is set to end after more than half a century with the staging of the 55th meeting in September.

    The move to end the gatherings, which were supported by The Mainichi Newspapers Co.' Kyoto Bureau, stems from a decline in the number of poets submitting haiku and the aging of organizing committee members, among other reasons. This year marks 76 years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

    In the first convention held in 1965, a haiku by a poet from Kyoto, reading "Keloid no shogai nuganu usutebukuro" (Thin gloves / that cannot be removed for life / keloids) won the convention award.

    The gatherings started at the behest of haiga artist Jakuso Okuda (1899-1988) in 1965, 20 years after the atomic bombings. It was an age in which nuclear weapons were spreading around the world. In 1954, members of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5), a tuna fishing boat, had been exposed to radioactive fallout from a hydrogen bomb test conducted by the United States near the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, while further nuclear tests were conducted by France in 1960 and China in 1964.

    Ikuro Anzai, a professor emeritus at Ritsumeikan University, who serves as head of the organizing committee for the A-Bomb Day Memorial Haiku Meeting, is pictured at the Kyoto Museum for World Peace at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto's Kita Ward. (Mainichi/Satoshi Fukutomi)

    At the gatherings, in addition to judges' selections, collections of all the haiku that were submitted were sent to all authors and they voted for the winning submissions. In 2020, the meeting was suspended due to the spread of the coronavirus, but haiku selections were made as normal, with 131 poets who submitted a total of 455 haiku selecting the winning pieces.

    During its peak, the meeting received more than 1,000 submissions, but the number of contributions has been falling in recent years. The organizers have also grown older, and due to difficulties in having new people take over, a decision was made to end the convention after the gathering in 2021.

    On Jan. 22 this year, the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which totally bans the development, possession and use of nuclear weapons, came into force after being ratified by 50 states and regions. It was the first international treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons. Japan has not ratified it but the head director of the haiku convention's organizing committee, Norihide Ito, 74, commented, "We thought it would be good to end the meetings at the round number of 55. We have hope that bans on nuclear weapons will advance (with the treaty coming into force)."

    The meeting has been suspended twice since it began, but in 2017 a commemorative publication looking back on 50 years of the convention's history was published. After this, the year 2020 marked 75 years since the atomic bombings. Ikuro Anzai, 81, a professor emeritus at Ritsumeikan University who serves as head of the organizing committee, commented, "The meetings were a way to pass down people's experience of being exposed to the atomic bombings. It's sad that they're ending, but it can't be helped. I hope that the people who managed the meetings will remain active in other spheres.

    --

    Below is a selection of haiku that won the A-Bomb Day Memorial Haiku Meeting's convention award, accompanied by provisional English translations.

    --

    Keloid no shogai nuganu usutebukuro

    Thin gloves / that cannot be removed for life / keloids

    (First meeting, 1965)

    --

    Bakushi shita chichi ga isona ari no retsu

    My father who died in bombing / could be there / line of ants

    (10th meeting, 1974)

    --

    Haka arau ko no na tsuma no na Hiroshima ki

    Washing the grave / the name of my child and that of my wife / Hiroshima memorial day

    (17th meeting, 1983)

    --

    Gigan no soko de mada Hiroshima ga moeteiru

    At the base of my artificial eye / Hiroshima / is still burning

    (23rd meeting, 1989)

    --

    Ikusa naki kusa no nioi no ko o idaku

    (Holding a child / with the aroma of grass / without war)

    (32nd meeting, 1998)

    --

    Te o tsunagu boshi ga kumo ni natta natsu

    The summer / when a mother and child holding hands / became clouds

    (39th meeting, 2005)

    --

    Shinu tame ni ikita Showa no aosusuki

    Green plume grass of the Showa era / that lived / to die

    (44th meeting, 2010)

    --

    Chichi wa ko o ko wa chichi shirazu haka arau

    A father and child / who never knew each other / washing the grave

    (46th meeting, 2012)

    --

    Genbakuki honenaki haka ni chichi ga iru

    A-bomb memorial day / my father in a grave / containing no bones

    (53rd meeting, 2019)

    --

    Genbakuki ishi ni shimitsuku kage nazuru

    A-bomb memorial day / my hand tracing the shadow / embedded in the stone

    (54th meeting, 2020)

    (Japanese original by Satoshi Fukutomi, Kyoto Bureau)

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