Tsunami tales win Imperial Palace poetry contest

Imperial Palace poetry contest The imperial family (left) attended the solemn ceremony at the palace

Poems about the Japanese tsunami were among the winners at the country's annual Imperial Palace poetry contest.

Emperor Akihito and his family attended a ceremony in Tokyo, where the 10 winning poems were read aloud.

One winner, a 72-year-old tailor, wrote of his relief upon learning his son was safe after three days of uncertainty when an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan last March.

The theme for this year's traditional five-line tanka contest was "shore".

A tanka is an older form of poetry than the more well-known haiku, and follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.

Poetry prize

Never able to

Turn it back,

This reality

Feels so heavy on my shoulders,

Along this coastal path.

One of the winning poems, by Yueko Sawabe (39)

Every year, thousands of people from around the world enter the Imperial Palace poetry competition, which is part of the palace's New Year celebrations.

The solemn ceremony saw Japan's royal family sit silently inside a large room in the palace, as a choir of several men around a table read each of the works in singsong, dragged-out tones.

The imperial family also offered their poems for the event. One of Emperor Akihito's verses expressed his sorrow and horror in watching the dark waves of the rolling tsunami on TV news footage.

Next year's theme has been announced as "stand up", which could inspire poems of hope in a recovering Japan.

The tsunami left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing, and set off the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

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