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Panning for laughs: Japan toilet poetry contest winners depict funny, cynical side of life

A toilet (Mainichi)

FUKUOKA -- Winners of a Japan toilet poetry contest announced on Oct. 13 have unveiled humorous and cynical sides of people's daily business in the form of senryu -- a three-line Japanese poem structurally similar to haiku.

    Toilet manufacturer Toto Ltd., headquartered in the southwest Japan city of Kitakyushu, announced its pick of the 40 best poems in the 17th edition of its annual toilet senryu contest, in which composers condensed their experiences and thoughts about washrooms into roughly 17 syllables in Japanese.

    Winning the top award was a poem reading: "Standing up / from the toilet / and carrying on living."

    There were 35,307 entries in the contest, and copywriter Takashi Nakahata, who is also a judge of the Mainichi Shimbun's senryu section, selected the winning poems.

    The "relieving and funny prize," newly established following the coronavirus pandemic, was given to a piece suggestive of an automatic toilet lid: "The lid rises / I step back / and admire it."

    The Takashi Nakahata prize was awarded to the following three pieces:

    -- "Receiving a knock on the door / 'I'm alive,' / the grandpa answers."

    -- "I go / my wife goes / I go again."

    -- "That knocking / translates to / 'Hurry up and get out.'"

    Among the three works that won the "kids' prize" was: "It would be fun / if there were / rainbow-colored toilet bowls."

    Awards of excellence were given to various entries including a poem referring to calls for people to voluntarily avoid going out amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reading, "This was / the only place I could go / during voluntary restraint."

    Nakahata praised the winner of the top award, saying that it can be considered sublime as people around the world sit on toilets every day. He added, "People stand up with their own thoughts; with the positive approach of making the next day a better one."

    Toto will begin selling toilet rolls printed with 20 prize-winning poems on Nov. 10 -- designated as "good toilet day" because the number 11 for November can be pronounced as "ii" (good) and the number 10 can be pronounced as "to" (the initial sound of the word toilet) in Japanese. The rolls will be sold at bookstores and elsewhere.

    (Japanese original by Kotaro Yamada, Kyushu News Department)

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