In November 2011, while cleaning up tsunami debris as a volunteer in Miyagi Prefecture, I visited the tsunami-damaged port of Ayukawa. On that bleak day it was a desolate sight. Piles of rubble littered the shorefront, interspersed with gutted buildings and a collection of whale skulls — but little else to tell that this had been a prosperous whaling port five decades ago.

As I looked on, I remembered a verse from Misuzu Kaneko's poem "The Whale Hunt": "The whales no longer come here/And this coast has fallen on hard times".

A native of the whaling town of Senzaki in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kaneko knew the old whaling culture well. It features sometimes in the natural, spiritual world depicted in her poetry; a world she represented with the honesty and wonder of a child's eye view.