Some people when they reach the twilight of their lives, just quietly wait for the end to come. Then there are those remarkable people like Toyo Shibata, who picked up poetry writing at the age of 92 and then sold 1.6 million copies of her first anthology. She has now passed away at the full age of 101.
Her 67 year old son Kenichi told reporters that she passed peacefully while at a nursing home in Utsunomiya north of Tokyo. She had to stay in the nursing home periodically because her health worsened in the last month. But even when she needed assistance already, she was still full of vigour. And up until a year ago, she was still writing poems.
She started writing after her son encouraged her to do so when her husband passed away almost 10 years ago. Her self-published first anthology Kujikenaide (“Don’t Lose Heart”) in 2009 was a critical hit because of her sense of humor and optimism, despite her advanced age. Asaka Shinsha republished the anthology in 2010 and added artwork and a few more verses. It was a surprise hit, selling 1.58 million copies and has now been translated and printed in South Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. There are also plans to publish it in China and Britain, as per Asako Igarashi, the spokesperson of the publishing house. In 2011, to celebrate her centenary, they published her second anthology Hyakusai (“100 years old”). After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, she wrote a poem to encourage the victims.
The main poem in Kujikenaide is translated here:
“Don’t lose heart.
Oh, please don’t sigh that you are unhappy.
The sunshine and the breeze will not favour anyone.
Dreams can be dreamed equally.
I have seen hard times but I am glad that I am alive.
Don’t you ever lose heart, either.”
[ via The Malaysian Insider ]