History and Winners of the YTHS Annual Haiku Contest

The YTHS has held an annual English-language international haiku contest beginning in 1978, three years after the founding of Yuki Teikei by Mr. Kiyoshi Tokutomi and Mrs. Kiyoko Tokutomi.

There was no contest held in the years 1987-1988 and 1990-1992. It was originally called “The Nth (where N was the number since 1978) Annual Yuki Teikei Haiku Contest,” and later ‘International’ was added after ‘Annual.’ After Kiyoshi died in 1987, to honor the passing of the first YTHS president and founder, it was renamed “The Kiyoshi Tokutomi Memorial Haiku Contest.” Then, after Kiyoko died in 2002, it was given its current name, “The Kiyoshi and Kiyoko Tokutomi Memorial Haiku Contest,” frequently shortened to “The Tokutomi Memorial Haiku Contest.”

This year, 2017, marks the 34th year of this esteemed contest, since there were no contests in five of the early years, around the passing of Kiyoshi. To honor the winners through the years, YTHS has created a document of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place haiku with the author’s name for every year a contest was held. Here is the link.

Patricia Machmiller recalls some interesting history of the initial YTHS Haiku Contests:

“The early contests were judged by Shugyo Takaha, renowned haiku poet, President of Kari Haiku Society of Tokyo, Japan, and teacher of Kiyoko and Kiyoshi. Kiyoko eventually became a dojin in his haiku group, Kari. Shugyo did not speak English, so the first contests were handled by Kiyoko and Kiyoshi, translating the entries into Japanese and sending them to Mr. Takaha. He judged all of the contests up until the time of Kiyoshi’s death. This may be why there are some years with no contests. Kiyoko was very depressed after he died; she would have been the only one who could arrange the judging in Japan, do the translation and she understandably was not up to it. Eventually YTHS started getting judges who could speak and write English.”

Thus, a unique feature of the contest since its beginning was that YTHS enlisted esteemed Japanese haiku experts to judge the submissions. The judges only had the haiku; the YTHS contest coordinator kept the authors’ names separately. The judges wrote commentary about each winning haiku, and these were published with the winning haiku, eventually in a brochure that was distributed at the annual YTHS Asilomar retreat. Below is a table of all the years since 1978, and if there is a brochure for that year’s contest, you can click on the year to see both the winning haiku and the judges’ comments. In some of the early years, there were no judge’s comments.

Table of Years of Haiku Contest Brochures
(Click on the year, if it is a link, to view that year’s brochure.)
2017 2016 2015
2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
2009 2008 2007 2006 2005
2004 2003 2002 2001 2000
1999 1998 1997 1996 1995
1994 1993 1992* 1991* 1990*
1989 1988* 1987* 1986 1985
1984 1983 1982 1981 1980
1979 1978
 * In this year, no contest was held.