Photo/IllutrationHoki-ji temple in the Ikaruga district of southwest Nara has an Asuka Period three-story pagoda and is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. (Matsuyama Photo-Haiku Contest)

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clear blue skies slowly fill with parachutes low-flying war planes

--Jeanne Jorgensen (Edmonton, Canada)

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old battleship--

beside the captain’s chair

a bowl with hardtack

--Ramona Linke (Beesenstedt, Germany)

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Temple chanting

Buddhist scripts

As light as thistle down

--Cai Siyi (Suzhou, China)

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St. John’s Church

wedding bells must have echoed

Meiji Mura

--Juichi Masuda (Tokyo)

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glowing red sky

the child picks up her doll

from the ashes

--Patricia Benedict Campbell (Calgary, Canada)

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persimmon sky

I taste the sweetness

of answered prayer

--Christine L. Villa (Sacramento, California)

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he knows all the ways

to go missing with me

--Aparna Pathak (Haryana, India)

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Memories float


the way forward

--Sandra Suzuyama (Kitakyushu)

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the night view

being hugged

by the Milky Way

--Jin Wada (Akita)

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stone lanterns--

a dog’s shadow barks

at my shadow

--Antonella Filippa (Turin, Italy)

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A record-setting 1,265 entries from poets in 41 countries vied for prizes in the 6th Matsuyama Photo Haiku Contest. Including the 10 honorably mentioned haiku listed in the column above, 1,063 haiku in English describing photos related to Matsuyama were composed by contestants from 32 countries. The highest award in this category went to Teiichi Suzuki in Osaka for a haiku about monks at Zenkoku-ji Temple coaxing a butterfly to enter their somber side of the gate.

Autumn butterfly

tempted by sutra chant

over the temple gate

This peaceful poem alludes to literary works by Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) which depict heavenly pursuits. The butterfly’s path counterpoints the comic novel “Botchan” (1906) in which the protagonist was unsuccessful in luring a carp during a festival at Bishamon-sama. Soseki left his job as professor of English literature at Tokyo Imperial University to begin writing full-time at The Asahi Shimbun from 1907. He finished “The Gate” (Mon) in 1910, a story about a man in a childless marriage who is unable to open three symbolical gates that lead to enlightenment.

A haiku about the battleship Mikasa by Katherine Pancoast Nagamura in Tokyo, and a haiku about Hoki-ji Temple by Kuo ChiWei from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, respectively won awards for excellence.

War and Peace

the book her enlisted left

open on his desk

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Old belfry

the plaintive cuckoo

crying blood

Additional haiku entries were submitted with 202 awe-inspiring photos shot by contestants in 33 countries for a new category that called for artistic literary works associated with sea themes. Honorably mentioned photo-haiku framed outriggers, lifeguards, scuba divers, beach-combers, refugees, sunsets, curly willows, seabirds, sharks, and even a selfie. The highest award went to a vacation photo taken by Eleonore Nickolay from Vaires sur Marne, France, who creatively captured this reminiscence.

vacation friends

their empty spot

on the beach

As ephemeral as cherry blossom viewing parties, there is nothing as wonderful as a day at the beach with friends. Nor is anything as sad as when it ends. Vacations are a national rite in France, so everyone crowds onto the beach demarking plots with parasols and towels. Barbecues and radios are turned on. Instant friends are made. Those moments are savored even more after returning to work. Creatures of habit, old friends might even return to the same spot on the next vacation.

Tomislav Maretic from Zagreb, Croatia, and Justice Joseph Prah in Accra, Ghana, respectively won awards for excellence for these haiku moments associated with bird scenes on a river and an estuary.

rowing down the river--

the heron ahead of us

flies off again

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thunderous night rain

watching the skies

for snapshots

Congratulations go to all the haikuists whose participation contributed to the success of the haiku contest supported by The Asahi Shimbun and the Asahi Culture Center. An award ceremony and international photo-haiku event attended by the judges of the Japanese and English competitions were held in Matsuyama on March 18 at the Shiki Memorial Museum, a venue dedicated to celebrating the life and works of Matsuyama-born poet Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). This year marks the 150th anniversary of the births of Shiki and his friend Natsume Soseki. Born in Tokyo, Soseki lived in Matsuyama from 1895 to 1896 while teaching at Matsuyama Junior High School and writing haiku for newspapers.

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David McMurray has been writing the Asahi Haikuist Network column since April 1995, first for the Asahi Evening News. He is also the editor of OUTREACH, a bi-monthly column featuring international teachers in The Language Teacher of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT).

McMurray is professor of intercultural studies at The International University of Kagoshima where he lectures on international haiku. At the Graduate School he supervises students who research haiku. He is a correspondent school teacher of Haiku in English for the Asahi Culture Center in Tokyo.

McMurray judges haiku contests organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Asahi Culture Center, Matsuyama City, and Seinan Jo Gakuin University.

McMurray's books include: "Canada Project in Kyushu" Vol. 1 (2006) - Vol. 7 (2011), Pukeko: Fukuoka; "Haiku in English as a Japanese Language" (2003), Pukeko: Kitakyushu; and "Hospital Departmental Operations--A Guide for Trustees and Managers," Canadian Hospital Association: Ottawa, Canada.