Japan's Grandmother Poet Dies, Aged 101

Best-selling Japanese poet Toyo Shibata, who began writing at the age of 92 and whose first anthology sold almost 1.6 million copies, has died at the age of 101.

Her eldest son, Kenichi Shibata, said she died at a nursing home near her house in Utsunomiya north of Tokyo.

She had been in the home periodically since her health worsened last month.

"Her death came really peacefully and without pain," 67-year-old Mr Shibata said.

"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, Mrs 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 the major Japanese 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, Mrs Shibata's second anthology Hyakusai (100 Years Old) was published to celebrate her centenary on June 26 that year.

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

Her 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.