Congratulations to Gracie Starkey from Wycliffe College whose Haiku – a Japanese form of poetry – beat 18,248 entries to win the English Haiku category in a prestigious poetry competition in Japan. Gracie, 14,  is the first non-Japanese person to win in the contest which attracts almost 2 million entries in Japan. Over the summer Ito En Ltd, which runs the competition, flew Gracie and her mother to Toyko for the unveiling of the winners.

“I could only tell my mum and dad and sister and my Japanese teacher at Wycliffe,” said Gracie. “I told my friends that I was going to Wales for a week and that I wouldn’t have any phone reception.”

Gracie’s winning submission was:

Freshly mown grass

clinging to my shoes

my muddled thoughts

Now her Haiku will be on millions of bottles of Ito En green tea drinks, complete with her name – in English and Japanese!

When she arrived at the Imperial Palace Hotel for the ceremony Gracie was swamped by press photographers and camera crews. “Everyone was taking pictures and there were at least 20 camera crews and photographers. It was amazing,” said Gracie. Gracie and her Wycliffe Japanese teacher, Satoko Suzui, gave a speech at the ceremony explaining the inspiration for her Haiku. “I spoke a little in Japanese explaining who I was, my age and about my school and friends, then I spoke in English with my teacher translating,” said Gracie.

Nick Gregory, Head of Wycliffe College, said:  “At Wycliffe, with our emphasis on having a broader and more varied curriculum than most schools, Japanese has – for more than a decade – been one of our Modern Languages on offer to all pupils, alongside French, German and Spanish. “Gracie’s truly exceptional achievement is a tribute to all of those who have taught Japanese here over the years and ‘wow’, what a prize !  A trip to Japan!  I am often proud of our pupils but seldom quite this envious.”

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