Haiku Competitions in Japan

Many organisations in Japan conduct haiku competitions and, given the world-wide popularity of the genre, several competitions invite haiku written in the English language.

I was fortunate to have two haiku recognised in recent Japanese contests: the Basho-an International English Haiku Competition and the Soka Matsubara International Haiku Competition.

The famous Japanese haiku poet, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), moved to Fukagawa on the outskirts of Tokyo in 1680, where he lived in a rustic hut built by his disciples. From that time, Basho took his name from the Japanese banana tree, or ‘basho’, planted in the yard. It was here that Basho wrote many of his most famous works including his ‘old pond’ haiku.

The Basho-an competition is sponsored by the Koto City Basho Museum which is located on the banks of the Sumida River in the area where Basho’s cottage was thought to be located.

The competition received 1,271 entries which were judged by Mr Akito Arima, Mr Kai Hasegawa and Ms Naoko Fujita. Each judge selected ten Winners and a Basho-an Award. Ms Fujita kindly included the following poem of mine among her Winners:

 

little bits of sky

woven through straw ‒

my hat on my face

 

In the spring of 1689, Basho set out to visit many sites in northern Honshu that had been referenced by earlier Japanese poets. The journey, mostly on foot, would cover almost 2,400 km. Basho’s most famous work, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, was based on events from this trip. The Narrow Road was written as a travel diary in the form of a haibun which combines prose and haiku.

As recounted in The Narrow Road, Basho arrived at Soka early in his journey. In 2019, Soka City chose to commemorate 330 years since this event by conducting an international haiku competition. The City has long been the location of pine groves and so entries in the contest were invited to reference ‘pine’ or ‘pine groves’ as well as other topics.

The 637 entries in the Soka Matsubara competition were judged by Mr Kai Hasegawa and Mr David Burleigh. In addition to the major awards, each judge chose ten Outstanding Haiku. My thanks go to Mr Burleigh for including the following haiku of mine among his selections:

 

breaking

my journey

this pine

 

Throughout 2020, all the awarded poems from these two competitions can be read online.

The results for the Basho-an International English Haiku Competition can be found here.

While the results for the Soka Matsubara International Haiku Competition are located here and here (scroll down for English).