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Haiku Poet Emiko Miyashita, who calls herself as “Field Worker for English Haiku”, visited Chicago to promote the 15th World Children’s Haiku Contest, which will start on October 1st, 2017. Miyashita, who is Director of the JAL Foundation, held a haiku lecture at three classes in the Dooley Elementary School where Japanese/English dual education has been offered for more than a decade.

The World Children’s Haiku Contest has been operated by the JAL Foundation since its inception in 1990. The not-for-profit organization was funded and founded by Japan Airlines with the purpose of helping to foster globally-minded citizens for the global age. The Foundation has strived for three main projects, Haiku Contest, JAL Scholarship Program, and Atmospheric Observation Project.

 The World Children’s Haiku Contest has been held every other year with a specific theme, and all children, who are 15 years old or under can participate in it. The contest started with countries where JAL flew; however, the number of participating countries grew to 52 due to requests from other countries.

The theme in the 15th World Children’s Haiku Contest is “Living Things”, and applications will be accepted by January 15, 2018. Application forms are available through JAL Foundation’s website http://www.jal-foundation.or.jp/contest-e.html.

You can send your English haiku and your drawing, which express your haiku image, with the application form to the address below.
Japan Airlines, P.O. Box 66078, Chicago, IL 60666

The website is written with all the languages used in the 52 countries. If you want to make a hike in another language, Polish for example, you can submit it with your drawing directly to the Foundation. The staff of the Foundation will visit the related Embassy in Tokyo and ask for haiku evaluations.

If you are studying French and want to make a haiku in French, you can send yours to a branch in France. The address is listed in the website.

All the haiku submitted to the contest are evaluated in each country and selected excellent works then are sent to Tokyo. Judges including Miyashita select the best works from the countries, and a certificate of commendation with some award goods are sent to the prize winners.

The winners are honored by publishing a poetry book, which lists winners’ haiku with their drawings. The printed books are donated to libraries in each of the participating countries. The winners’ haiku are also videotaped and screened in a channel installed in the JAL’s airplanes.

The poetry book is a useful resource to learn about winners’ backgrounds such as culture, economic and political climate.

A haiku from a developing country read, “My father crushed a piggy-bank to pay for my tuition.” Another haiku from a politically unstable country just wrote, “My mother and brother are beside me when I woke up.” The Foundation’s website has posted grand-prize winners’ haiku and drawings in each country section.

Miyashita encouraged the students at Dooley saying, “Trying to find something new every day, looking for a small seasonal change, if one continues the attitude for a lifetime. . . What do you think will happen to the person?” She said that haiku was a way of life. She also said, “You can easily share your feelings of a season with other people when you put your seasonal perception into a form of haiku.” She gave the students a list of “Autumn Season Words”. Interestingly, it included Halloween.

The start of JAL’s haiku promoting activities goes back to 1964 when Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games. At that time, JAL called for participating in its haiku contest through an American radio channel, then JAL received 41,000 pieces of haiku from the U.S. The best haiku was:
A bitter morning:
sparrows sitting together
without any necks”
It well described one’s daily life, and everyone was able to imagine the scene.

Miyashita expects an increased quality of haiku due to the prevailed internet connections that would bring a sense of competition among haiku fans.

Continuity is also an important factor of the World Children’s Haiku Contest. Akemi Hamazaki, Manager of the Foundation, spoke about a story.

Several years ago, Shanghai, China wanted to discontinue participating in the contest. When the staff of the Foundation visited there and talked with a city authority, he said that he was one of the contestants when he was 10 years old and enjoyed it, so it should be continued.

Junji Tanaka, Managing Director of the Foundation, talked about another heartwarming story in the JAL Scholarship Program, which has invited college and graduate students to Japan and offered a month-long activity since 1975.

Recently, a former participant of the program was selected as Governor of Jakarta, and he reunited with the program staff of that time in Japan.


Haiku Poet Emko Miyashita gives a haiku lecture at Dooley Elementary School in Schaumburg.

From Left: Akemi Hamazaki, Emiko Miyashita, and Junji Tanaka