Japan's grandmother poet Toyo Shibata dies at 101

TOKYO (AFP) - 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.

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

"Her death came really peacefully and without pain," the 67-year-old son told AFP. "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.

The volume was reissued in 2010 by major publishing house Asaka Shinsha, with new artwork and additional verses to make a total of 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, company spokeswoman Asako Igarashi said. There are also plans to publish in China and Britain.

In 2011 Shibata's second anthology "Hyakusai (100 years old)" was published to celebrate her centenary in June that year.

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

The main poem in Kujikenaide can be roughly translated as follows:

"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."

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