Composer Shoichi Yabuta took first prize in the composition division of the Geneva International Music Competition on Sunday.

Four composers including Yabuta made the final stage, where professional players performed their original works for string quartet.

Yabuta's "Billow," a seven-minute piece describing the powerful surge of waves, was shorter than his rivals' entries but received huge applause.

"By trimming the unnecessary, I tried to condense only the essence into the piece," Yabuta said. "I wasn't expecting to win at all. I only feel relief now."

The 32-year-old native of Hyogo Prefecture began writing music during his final year of high school and has won prizes in contests both in Japan and overseas, including the Music Competition of Japan.

He studied composing in the graduate school of Tokyo College of Music and graduated in 2011. Compatriot Dai Fujikura, one of the judges at the competition, said Yabuta's music was the most organized.

"I hope to hear a longer piece," Fujikura said.

The Geneva International Music Competition began in 1939 and allows musicians to compete in voice, percussion, violin, piano and other divisions of classical music. In 2010, Mami Hagiwara of Hiroshima won first prize in the piano division.

The composition division was established in 2013, when composer Chikako Yamanaka of Okayama Prefecture won the audience prize.