Japan's bestselling poet Toyo Shibata dies aged 101

Toyo Shibata 1911-2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 January, 2013, 4:23am


Japanese poet Toyo Shibata, who started writing at the age of 92 and whose first anthology sold almost 1.6 million copies, died Sunday aged 101, her son said.

She died at a nursing home near her residence in Utsunomiya north of Tokyo, said her eldest son Kenichi Shibata, where she had been periodically since her health worsened last month.

"Her death came really peacefully and without pain," the 67-year-old son said. "She kept writing poems until she was about 100. She needed help when she walked in the past half-year, although she was full of vigour."

After the death of her husband, a chef, Shibata was encouraged by her son to write poems.

Her first anthology Kujikenaide (Don't Lose Heart) was originally self-published in 2009 and won praise for its sense of humour and forward-looking attitude. It was reissued in 2010 by publishing house Asaka Shinsha, with new artwork and additional verses to take it to 42 poems.

It sold 1.58 million copies in a country where a poetry anthology is considered a success with 10,000 sales. The book has also been printed in translation in South Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany.

She also wrote a poem to encourage victims of the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster which left 19,000 people dead or missing and sparked a nuclear crisis in Japan's northeast.