Japanese poet Toyo Shibata died on Sunday at the age of 101. She became famous after she started writing at the age of 92. Her first anthology sold about 1.6 million copies in a country where poetry anthologies are considered to be a success with 10,000 sales.
Shibata died at a nursing home, according to her eldest son Kenichi Shibata, who is 67. “Her death came really peacefully and without pain. 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 vigor,” he said.
Shibata started to write poetry after her husband died. Her first anthology “Kujikenaide” (Don’t Lose Heart) was originally self-published in 2009. It was praised for its sense of humor and forward-looking attitude.
The volume was published again in 2010 by an important publishing company called Asaka Shinsha. The new edition included additional verses to make a total of 42 poems, the international press reports. It has been translated and sold in South Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany.
Shibata released her second anthology, “Hyakusai (100 years old)”, in 2011, in order to celebrate her centenary in June that year.
She also wrote a poem to encourage victims of the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster. It can be translated as follows:
“Don’t lose heart.
Oh, please don’t sigh that you are unhappy.
The sunshine and the breeze will not favor 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.”